Focal Point: Crossing the Line

Focal Point: "Crossing the Line" examines the alarming number of drunken-driving fatalities involving Hispanic drivers, especially illegal immigrants. (Original air date Dec. 5 2007)

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Crossing The Line

Original Air Date: Dec. 5, 2007

Although drunken drivers come in all colors and from all cultures, an unusually high number of them in North Carolina are Hispanic immigrants.

A study from the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center shows that Hispanics involved in car crashes were two-and-a-half times more likely to be drunk than white drivers and three times more likely to be drunk than black drivers.

Hispanics also account for 18 percent of drunken-driving arrests, while making up less than 7 percent of the state’s population. Drunken driving is also the number one killer of young Hispanic men in North Carolina.

So why is there such a high rate of drunken driving among Hispanics in North Carolina? Some say young Hispanic men consider drinking and driving a macho right of passage. Advocates say many who immigrate here did not drive a car back in their home country and have not been exposed to anti-drunken-driving messages and driver safety education.

Whatever the reasons, the alarming number of drunken-driving fatalities involving Hispanic drivers, especially illegal immigrants, has outraged victims’ families and some of North Carolina's leaders.

Focal Point: “Crossing the Line” examines the high rate of drunken-driving accidents involving legal and illegal Hispanic immigrants and looks at the unique challenges law enforcement agencies and the court system faces in trying to punish undocumented immigrants for driving drunk.

"Crossing the Line" also profiles the case of Scott and Tina Gardner, a couple from Mount Holly, N.C., who was hit by an illegal immigrant, identified as Ramiro Gallegos, who was driving drunk. Tina was left severely brain-damaged, and Scott was killed.

“My son didn’t have to die," his mother, Emily Moose, said. "The man that drove the truck and took his life had been in front of a judge five times. He had been deported from this country twice.”

Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., 9th District, has introduced a bill in Congress called “The Scott Gardner Act,” which would require the deportation of any illegal immigrant convicted of DWI.

The documentary also looks at efforts by Latino advocacy groups to reach out to Hispanic immigrants and educate them about the dangers of driving drunk.

Watch the Documentary

Focal Point Extras

El Pueblo Public Service Announcements
Public Service Announcements
Spanish public service announcements to the Hispanic community run on local Spanish-speaking television stations warning about the dangers of reckless driving and driving while impaired. (Approximately 1 minute)
El Pueblo Public Driving-Safety Video
El Pueblo offers a public safety video in Spanish that it uses to help educate Hispanics about driver safety and drinking and driving. (Approximately 20 minutes)
The North Carolina Highway Patrol also has available a video it uses for educational purposes and special presentations to help educate Hispanics about driver safety and drinking and driving. (Approximately 10 minutes)

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Writer/Producer: Clay Johnson
Photographer/Editor: Jay Jennings
Research & Production Assistant: Laura Riddle

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