Translators used in 3,600 driving tests across region
Translators were asked to sit in on more than 3,600 driving tests in the Black Country and Staffordshire because new motorists were not confident in their grasp of English, it can be revealed today.
A total of 3,686 learner drivers used an interpreter on their car practical driving tests at Wolverhampton, Wednesbury, Lower Gornal, Cannock, Stafford and Lichfield test centres between April 1, 2010 and March 31 this year.
The Driving Standards Agency also revealed 8,457 candidates sat a theory test exam with a voiceover in a different language at Wolverhampton and Dudley theory test centres over the same period.
Those taking their practical tests with an interpreter or translator had to use an agency-approved professional, make necessary arrangements and pay fees themselves.
But the agency has to cover the costs of developing and updating voiceovers in different languages, using fees collected.
The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act, come after the Government launched a review over the level of foreign language support available.
The review was prompted by concerns about road safety, with fears raised about whether those drivers who did not have a sufficient grasp of English to take a test could understand emergency traffic updates.
Fears were also raised about the risk of fraud and the costs of translations. The agency said if voiceovers were abandoned it would save £230,000 a year.
Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond said: "We want to ensure that all drivers have the right skills to use our roads safely and responsibly. We also want to keep test fees to a minimum for candidates, and I am not convinced that providing translations is the most effective use of resources.
"There is a potential road safety risk of drivers not understanding important traffic updates or emergency information."
Local business - Norton Bathrooms, Cannock & Stafford Bathrooms