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Immigrant motorists 'unsafe on our roads'


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Immigrant motorists 'unsafe on our roads'


By ELEANOR MAYNE, Mail on Sunday Last updated at 21:12pm on 21st October 2006


Thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers are legally allowed to drive on our roads even though many would be incapable of passing a British driving test, safety campaigners have claimed.

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander faced calls to end a legal loophole entitling people who have a an overseas licence to drive in the UK for a year before taking a test.

The demands from road safety groups and MPs follow a series of accidents involving immigrants.

Critics claim foreign licences are often bought on the black market in their country of origin or handed out after tests lasting as little as five minutes.

And UK driving instructors say they are dealing with an increasing number of immigrants who have been driving in Britain for a year but need as many lessons as a novice to pass their test.

Tory MP David Davies, who holds a heavy goods vehicle licence, said: "It is crazy that someone who has been driving in Somalia should be allowed to drive here without taking a test."

His views were supported by Cathy Keeler, of the national road safety group Brake. "If the test in each country is not as high a standard as in the UK, it should not be valid here,' she said.

While our driving test - which has a pass rate of just 43 per cent - is one of the hardest in the world, exams in other countries are less rigorous. In Kenya, candidates move toy cars around a street map and are given practical tests in groups. No matter what the results, a bribe of just £11 is said to be enough to secure a licence.

Ethiopian drivers have a practical test around a course marked out by wooden pegs while in Somalia fake licences can be bought openly at markets.

There are also fears of corruption in EU countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic, whose licences are now considered equivalent to those in the UK and can be used here indefinitely.

Earlier this month, Polish bus driver Robert Botur was jailed for two years after causing the death of a female passenger six weeks after his arrival in the UK. He was driving on the wrong side of the road and hit an oncoming car.

In Peterborough, a surge in the number of non-English speakers convicted of driving offences led police to produce a leaflet with cartoon pictures explaining English driving laws.

The Department for Transport denied foreign licences were a safety risk, adding: "We don't want people here for a short period of time to have to go through the process of getting a licence."

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