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Suit seeks Hawaii driver's test in other languages

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:08 p.m. HST, Sep 06, 2013


Hawaii discriminates against immigrants by only allowing driver's license exams to be taken in English, a federal class-action lawsuit filed today claims.

The class-action lawsuit by Faith Action for Community Equity, or FACE, and two unnamed Hawaii residents wants to force the state Department of Transportation to offer the test in other languages. According to FACE, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire and South Dakota are the only states that don't offer a driving test in any language other than English.

That wasn't always the case in Hawaii, a state with a diverse population. In 2001, the state began offering the exam in languages including Tagalog, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Samoan and Tongan. But those tests were no longer offered when new questions were added. It's not clear when those tests stopped, but the group began getting complaints last year.

The transportation department doesn't comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said. But she said the department has already been working to reinstate the previously offered tests and also add Ilocano, Chuukese, Marshallese, Spanish and Hawaiian. The translations are expected to be completed by the end of the year, she said.

The group has been trying to get the translations in place since the beginning of the year, said Gavin Thornton, deputy director of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, but transportation officials have refused to confirm the translations will be provided. Kim Harmon, of FACE, said the lawsuit was filed as a last resort after unsuccessful meetings with the DOT.

According U.S. Census data, nearly 300,000 people in Hawaii out of about 1.2 million spoke a language other than English at home from 2006-08.

"Kentucky offers 22 different translations," Thornton said. "We have close to six times the immigrant population of Kentucky."

The ability to drive is especially important on outer islands where there's limited or no public transportation, Thornton said.

"Some members of the class have felt compelled to drive without a license because they have no other viable means of getting to work and supporting their families," the lawsuit states. The lawsuit describes a plaintiff only identified as John Doe 1 who is a Chuukese citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia living on Maui. "In spite of his efforts to learn English by taking classes, he has had difficulty with the vocabulary and idioms on the exam, which includes words like 'inadvertently' and 'abreast' and phrases like 'ride up.'" He took and failed the test three times.






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Kealii wrote:
What a great idea! We already have the worst drivers in the nation. Let's build on that and add more drivers on the road who can't read our English signs and directions! And how about the vehicles they're driving, are they going to come with manuals in different languages too so they know how to safely operate their vehicles in all situations? Oh never mind, a car is a car. They're all the same. Nothing to worry about!
on September 6,2013 | 01:21PM
Anonymous wrote:
how can one drive if they can't read the signs?
on September 6,2013 | 03:18PM
just_sayin wrote:
No can believe! ...um, yeah you gotta be able to read the darn signs...we cannot even get folks to use blinkers!
on September 6,2013 | 08:51PM
lfb489 wrote:
If a person can't understand the written test in English, they won't be able to read all the road signs that are in English. Perhaps that is why there are so many accidents. Someting to think about. As for means of transportation, there is the Bus. If I ride the Bus to & from work, so can others. Driving IS NOT the only means of transportation. Next they will want road signs to be in different languages which will cost the State millions of dollars. People should learn the language of the country they choose to reside in.
on September 6,2013 | 01:22PM
scoobydoo wrote:
Driving is a Privilege! NOT a right.
on September 6,2013 | 02:02PM
nearby wrote:
And without adequate public transportation it's a necessity for survival.
on September 6,2013 | 06:06PM
fairgame947 wrote:
Next will be the demand to make the signs in various languages. Bad idea all around.
on September 6,2013 | 02:03PM
IMVHOAgain wrote:
Come on, you do-good attorneys. Find another cause because this one stinks. Do I want to be driving next to somebody that can't read the "do not enter, wrong way" sign going 55 mph? I think not! If you can't comprehend a written sentence and you have time to read and reread it how are you going to make split-second decisions on the freeway? DISLIKE.
on September 6,2013 | 02:26PM
keawe wrote:
...make sure they have in the test all the "Signage" meanings in the test. For Example: Wrong Way, Dead End, No Parking here to Corner, When Parking is allowed signs, One Way, School Zone, Yield, No Parking at Anytime, and the list goes on.
on September 6,2013 | 03:17PM
eastside808 wrote:
Driving is a privilege and with that privilege is responsibility. That responsibility is to understand and abide by the laws (signs, etc) that happen to be the language spoken by the majority of people the laws were made for. I believe that language is English. If the applicants cannot read or understand the English language then they should not have the privilege of driving on our streets but are welcome to ride the bus. Driving a two ton vehicle at any speed is dangerous to other vehicles and pedestrians alike and to add to that a person whose command of English is suspect is adding more insult to guaranteed injury. When will needless litigation like this stop. This issue is not about fairness to the minorities but more importantly it is about safety on our roads.
on September 6,2013 | 03:33PM
samsdad wrote:
You're in the United States of America, learn to read & write English or go back home.
on September 6,2013 | 03:43PM
syee100 wrote:
Learn the language or go back to where you came from!
on September 6,2013 | 04:27PM
nearby wrote:
Said no Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native ever.
on September 6,2013 | 06:06PM
BIG wrote:
bad idea
on September 6,2013 | 05:37PM
cigaripo wrote:
I would like to welcome immigrants here , but not when they demand special benefits that comes from the taxpayers pockets. They come for a better life, but expect it to come on a platter ready for them. They can go to classes and organize within their ethinicity to help each other. But these people choose to sue us to provide for them. Lawyer looking to make a name for himself. Both not kosher way to be invited to stay here. Sad to say but agree with other comment, no like the idea, go home.
on September 6,2013 | 07:12PM
niimi wrote:
As a Democrat I say this is why we need an official language for the country and this state. English. Otherwise we will need to translate everything in 30 different languages.
on September 6,2013 | 08:44PM
scooters wrote:
Hey this is AMERICA you idiots! Learn our language first..why do we have to bow down to these emigrants! Who ever agrees with this piece of BS..needs to move on..like out of the USA and go back home...where you can practice your own fricking LANGUAGE. I'm sick and tired of this kind of crap..
on September 6,2013 | 09:22PM
scooters wrote:
Hey this is AMERICAN.Learn our language first so you can pass the test. If not, then go back where you came from.. We need to quit bowing down to these people...
on September 6,2013 | 09:24PM
ptofview wrote:
If you can't read English, you won't be able to read road signs. No English, No license, No accidents. How simple is that.
on September 6,2013 | 11:53PM
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