MVD isn't printing driver's
manuals in Spanish
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 8, 2004
Lawmakers worry about road safety
The state Motor Vehicle Division has quietly stopped printing the Arizona
driver's license manual in Spanish at a time when the state's Latino population
is booming. That has angered some state lawmakers who say the decision could
affect public safety.
The decision to stop printing the manual in Spanish was made three years ago to
save money in response to budget cuts, but MVD officials never notified the
public or lawmakers.
"Spanish is the state's second language and
the primary language of many
households in Arizona," said state Rep. Ted Downing, D-Tucson, a member of the
Latino caucus. "People need to clearly understand the rules of the road, and we
should help them do that."
With the state's Latino population surging, the MVD printed 50,000 copies of the
manual in Spanish for the first time in October 2000, and then 50,000 more in
January 2001, at a total cost of $52,000, spokeswoman Cydney DeModica said.
Another 50,000 copies were printed in April 2001, at a cost of about $20,000,
But in fall 2001, MVD officials decided to forgo the Spanish printing to save
money after being hit with a $5 million budget cut.
The decision, however, was never meant to be permanent, DeModica said.
"It was viewed as a temporary (decision), but the funding that was cut has not
been restored," she said.
However, several changes in driving laws have taken place since the last time
the manual was printed in Spanish, most notably a decrease in the legal limit
for driving drunk, from .10 to .08 blood alcohol level.
Downing said the MVD should have informed state lawmakers before deciding to
stop printing the manual in Spanish.
"To me, it's a major policy decision affecting public safety," Downing said.
"That decision is putting everyone at risk, Spanish speakers and English
While the manual is no longer printed in Spanish, the test is still being
offered in four languages besides English: Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and
Meanwhile, the latest version of the driver's license manual will be printed
only in English and will be ready by the end of this month, DeModica said. It
will include several changes, including two pages devoted to roundabout
intersections, which are designed to provide for a continuous flow of traffic
and are gaining popularity in Arizona, DeModica said.
Media inquiries prompted MVD officials to begin planning to translate the latest
version of the manual into Spanish and offering it on the Internet "in the next
few months," DeModica said.
Typically, 600,000 copies of the manual are
printed in English each year, at a cost of $110,000, DeModica said.
Democratic state Rep. Steve Gallardo, whose west Phoenix district has a majority
Latino population, said saving money was not a good reason to stop printing the
manual in Spanish because Hispanics make up more than 25 percent of the state's
population, and many of them are more comfortable speaking Spanish.
"How can they even take the test if they can't study for it?" Gallardo said.
Earlier this week, Latinos interviewed at the MVD office on 51st Avenue in
Maryvale, a predominantly Latino section of west Phoenix, gave mixed reactions
to MVD's decision to stop printing the manual in Spanish. Some said the decision
would prevent drivers more comfortable speaking Spanish from passing the
driver's license test.
"It's going to affect a lot of Hispanic people. If you don't understand
something clearly, you are not going to be able to answer the questions
correctly," said Isaias Paredes, 42, a Mexican-born apartment manager who was
renewing his registration.
Other Latinos, however, felt strongly that the driver's license manual should be
printed only in English.
"It will force more people to learn English," said Mark Barajas, 34, a U.S.-born
Latino who speaks English and Spanish. "And besides, translating (the manual)
into Spanish costs money."