Local News

Many Immigrants are Uninformed About State Driving Laws

Posted April 28, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Two automobile accidents over the weekend left seven Hispanic men dead and two other people seriously injured. Neither Hispanic driver had a valid driver's license and none of those killed were wearing seatbelts.

Families and friends of the victims are mourning their losses, but elsewhere there is some hope that a new awareness will come from the tragedy.

People who work with the growing North Carolina Hispanic community say education about driving laws begins at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Since 1993, to help with this process, the DMV has been printing its manual in both English and Spanish. Still, many immigrants are reluctant to apply for licenses. That's a trend police say could often mean the difference between life and death.

The El Mandado grocery store and cafe is a center of the Hispanic Community in North Raleigh. Four young people who were killed inone of the weekend accidentswere regulars at the store. Police say high speed, alcohol and failure to wear seatbelts contributed to their deaths. Store owner Marco Roldan says those who knew them are saddened, and he hopes others will learn from this tragedy..

Katie Pomerans is a state liaison to the Hispanic community. She says there needs to be more education for Hispanic drivers, because driving laws are much more lax in some of their home countries.

The DMV is trying to encourage people to learn the rules the right way, from the official drivers' manual. Driving tests are also printed in Spanish and interpreters are available at DMV offices. DMV Examiner Rodney Ellen says this has had a positive impact on the department's relations with Hispanics.

Still only 10 % of Hispanic residents in N.C. are licensed to drive, as compared to about 80 % of the state's total population. Guillermo Ayala took and passed the driving test, and says he encourages others to do the same.

The DMV requires legal identification with a birthdate in order to issue a license, but licensed drivers donothave to be citizens of the United States.