Local News

Hispanics Have Higher Rate of Drunken Driving Crashes

Posted June 4, 2007 4:14 p.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2007 7:11 p.m. EDT

— Drunk driving among Latinos is a problem that law enforcement authorities and Hispanic advocates continue to battle.

According to the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, 7 percent of Hispanic drivers involved in crashes in 2005 were suspected of drunken driving. The rate is more than double the percentage of white and black drivers who were involved in wrecks.

"In '05, Hispanics were disproportionately represented in alcohol-related crashes," said Lt. Everett Clendenin of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. "We've talked to the experts like a lot of police agencies have, and we know there's a cultural difference."

Since last October, El Pueblo has been bringing attention to the problem with books, workshops and public service announcements. The organization even hands out bumper stickers that calls drunken drivers fools.

"I feel that its our responsibility that we have to carry on this message and enlighten people as much as we can," said Irene Godinez, public safety specialist for El Pueblo.

Defense lawyers said Hispanic defendants are often completely unaware of just how serious the U.S. court system treats DWI crashes, especially when someone dies.

"There may be different laws, and there's definitely a different attitude in this country as it relates to DWI as compared to other countries," Godinez said. "It's not acceptable. It is a grave danger for our community, (for) all of North Carolina's communities."

El Pueblo believes one of the issues that leads to high drunken driving rates among Latinos is that many come to North Carolina alone and have no family support system. Depression can lead to substance abuse, officials said.

Another component of the outreach effort involves getting Hispanics the professional help they need if they become addicted to alcohol or drugs.

"We want to do all we can to get this message (against drinking and driving) out to all communities, and especially the Hispanic community," Clendenin said.