Tulsa police notice increasing number of Spanish-speaking drivers

Sunday, February 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Tulsa police say the number of Spanish-speaking Oklahoma drivers is increasing.

Jail records show that driving without a license was the second-most-frequently cited offense for which Hispanic people were arrested in the last five years. Authorities say Spanish speakers in jail are six times more likely to be there because they don't have driver's licenses.

The Tulsa World also reports Hispanics have been jailed at least 2,000 times for driving without a license between 1996 and January of this year.

Hispanic leaders say a solution to the problem is simple _ offer the driver's license test in Spanish. But state law won't allow funding for such material.

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety offered tests and manuals in Spanish until 1997, spokesman Lt. Chris West said.

Hispanic leaders are lobbying legislators to allocate funding so questions on driving exams can be asked in Spanish.

They say the problem will worsen without a remedy.

Tulsa County's Hispanic population has doubled since 1990, and the U.S. Census Bureau estimated its Hispanic population in 1999 at 20,190.

By the year 2005, there will be 143,000 Hispanics living in Oklahoma, the bureau estimated.

A recent United Way study of 500 Tulsa-area families showed only 48 percent had Oklahoma driver's licenses.