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Many Immigrants are Uninformed About State Driving Laws

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RALEIGH — Two automobile accidents over the weekend leftseven Hispanic men dead and two other people seriously injured. NeitherHispanic driver had a valid driver's license and none of those killed werewearing seatbelts.

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

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

The El Mandado grocery store and cafe is a center of the HispanicCommunity in North Raleigh. Four young people who were killed inone ofthe weekend accidentswere regulars at the store. Police say highspeed,alcohol and failureto wear seatbelts contributed to their deaths. Store owner Marco Roldansays those who knew them are saddened, and he hopes others will learnfrom this tragedy..

Katie Pomerans is a state liaison to the Hispanic community. She saysthere needs to be more education for Hispanic drivers, because drivinglaws 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 inSpanish and interpreters are available at DMV offices. DMV Examiner RodneyEllen says this has had a positive impact on thedepartment's relations with Hispanics.

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

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

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