Feb 2, 2023 - News

Utah's new multi-language driver's tests are in demand

Illustration of a driver's license in the shape of a text message balloon.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Utahns can now take the exam to earn a driver's license in a language besides English, per a new law that went into effect last month.

Catch up quick: Gov. Spencer Cox signed a law last year that would allow Utahns with limited English proficiency to take their driver's test in one of the state's five most spoken languages other than English.

  • Those are Spanish, Mandarin, Tongan, Portuguese and Vietnamese, as determined by the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs.

The latest: Since Jan. 2, 800 people have utilized the multi-language tests, Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson said at a news conference Wednesday. The Spanish and Mandarin tests have been the most requested so far.

Why it matters: The tests could make Utah roads safer by providing greater traffic law awareness to the state's increasingly diverse population, according to the bill's co-sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City).

  • The new law comes as the state's Latino and Asian American populations rise. Between 2010 and 2020, Utah's Latino population grew 38%, per the Salt Lake Tribune.

What they're saying: "This is so much more than an exam," said Nubia Peña, the governor's senior adviser on equity and opportunity and director of the Division of Multicultural Affairs. "This is linked to economic pathways to better jobs that are able to give them access to higher-quality living for their families and ... being able to contribute to our state."

  • Escamilla said taking a driver's license exam can be an intimidating and complicated process for immigrants and refugees, especially those who recently arrived in the U.S.

What we're watching: Escamilla said she's supporting another measure, HB 141, this legislative session that would allow Utahns to bring their own interpreters to take the driver's license exam under certain circumstances.

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