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English-only driver test about safety
Courier editorial
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A bill currently before the Georgia Legislature that would require testing potential drivers in English only is fanning flames on both sides of the always-heated immigration debate. However, the proposed requirement should have nothing to do with racial discrimination — as some opponents claim — and everything to do with safety.
The bill’s sponsor, GOP Sen. Jack Murphy, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, says motorists must have at least a basic knowledge of English in order to read roadside warnings and communicate with first responders in case of emergencies.
What’s so appalling and blatantly bigoted about that? Such a requirement really just seems like common sense. Drivers who cannot read signs in English imperil themselves and everyone on our roadways, plain and simple. There’s nothing racial or political about it.
Critics have argued that most road signs and symbols are easily recognizable. That may be true, but consider for a moment the dozens of commonly seen signs that have no accompanying symbol or graphic. What’s the symbol for “Road work next eight miles. Speed limit reduced?” How about “Construction zone: use caution. Workers ahead?” And let’s not discount the enormous electronic banners that now stretch across many interstates. They often relay vital traffic information and are used to notify the public of newly issued AMBER or missing person alerts.
Not all signs and warnings are stationary. In Georgia, where the timber trade is one of the top revenue and job-producing industries, trucks ferry mountainous piles of logs along roads, sometimes at speeds in excess of 70 mph. Some — although not all — display signs warning motorists to “keep back 200 feet.” And many semis have messages painted on their trailers, such as “Caution: If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” It’s tough to envision a symbol that could accurately convey this admonition.
According to an Associated Press article released Monday, the proposed law would apply to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Individuals with non-immigrant visas — such as students, business travelers or visitors on extended trips — would still be allowed to take the written test in another language. Illegal immigrants would not be affected because they are not eligible for driver’s licenses. The legislation likely would not discourage tourism or economic development, as challengers have suggested.
Immigrants are important members of nearly every community in Georgia and their rights should be respected, but safety must be our principal priority. Not passing this legislation could have negative consequences.
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