Opinion: Alabama professor says Tim James’ ‘English only’ driver exams could cost state money

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‘If you don’t like America, then you can git out.’ So say conservative townfolk in the animated TV show ‘South Park’ when they get fired up with the progressive element.

Shortly after uttering that line, the characters inevitably start beating the crap out of each other -- except one episode in which they all start making love (in a giant pile).

You could say the same thing is happening in Alabama (except for the second part).

Alabama gubernatorial candidate Tim James has a line that would make Trey Parker and Matt Stone proud. In a campaign commercial called ‘Language,’ James promises to offer the state drivers license exam in only one language (English, natch), as opposed to the 12 languages currently offered.


‘This is Alabama, we speak English,’ James says. ‘If you want to live here, learn it.’

Is offering the test exam in other languages a problem?

Yes, he says. His website references a study that shows a 72% increase in work-related traffic fatalities. He says the report attributes those fatalities ‘to the fact that increasing numbers of employees and drivers could not read or understand warning signs in English.’

He doesn’t mention the study in his ad. He cites economic costs.

‘Maybe it’s just the businessman in me, but we’ll save money and it makes sense,’ he says. ‘Does it to you?’

Nope, it doesn’t, says conservative blogger and former longtime resident of Alabama, James Joyner. Joyner runs the political blog ‘Outside the Beltway.’

‘The reality is that road signs are understandable to people who don’t read the language,’ Joyner told The Ticket. ‘I’ve driven in places where they don’t speak English and managed to get around just fine. The signs are intentionally pictographs, designed to be intuitively recognizable in an instant from a distance.’

What about the money angle? University of Alabama professor David Lanoue told the Ticket that it would probably end up costing the state money.

‘It seems almost certain that any money saved by not administering multi-language tests would be more than offset by the legal fees the state would incur when the law was challenged in court,’ Lanoue said.

Joyner doesn’t buy it either, calling the claim ‘a stretch.’

‘Compared to the cost of additional accidents from untested drivers and the damage to the state’s image, it’s a drop in the bucket,’ he said. ‘If one company decides to go to South Carolina or Tennessee rather than Alabama over this issue, it’ll be bad business, indeed.’

But will the spot be good business for him?

‘He has been trailing in the polls, and is probably hoping that this issue can help separate him from the pack and make him a favorite among the ‘tea party’ types,’ Lanoue said.

Well, he’s not going to get any Rachel Maddow types (not that he’s saddened by this). A blog post on her site calls him ‘mean.’
James told a group of supporters Monday that Maddow and other ‘lefties’ are pouncing on him. ‘I have come under attack and under assault by a very interesting group of far-left reporters,’ he said.

By the way, we contacted the James campaign for comment but they haven’t replied yet.

One last thing, James is also getting some flak for a dramatic three-second pause in his commercial (which we’ve embedded below). One, we’re presuming anti-James, individual posted a YouTube video explaining the reasoning behind it. Sure, it’s sophomoric but still kinda funny.

-- Jimmy Orr

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