RALEIGH, N.C. — The high rate of drunken driving accidents involving legal and illegal Hispanic immigrants is the focus of a WRAL News documentary airing Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Focal Point: "Crossing the Line" also looks at the challenges law enforcement agencies and the court system face in trying to punish undocumented immigrants for driving drunk. It also looks at how Latino advocacy groups are working to reach out to Hispanic immigrants and educate them about the dangers of driving drunk.
According to a recent study from the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, Hispanics involved in car crashes are 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.
"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 on their vacation in July 2005. Tina Gardner was left severely brain-damaged, and Scott Gardner was killed.
The driver, Ramiro Gallegos, had a blood alcohol concentration of .22, nearly three times the legal limit.
“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.”
More recently, there have been several traffic accidents involving Hispanic immigrants.
On Oct. 25, Elbin Fabiel Ocampo Cruz, 22, was driving westbound on eastbound Interstate 540 between Creedmoor and Six Forks roads in Raleigh when he collided with a woman's car. An illegal immigrant, he faces charges including driving while impaired and reckless driving.
And in March, Luciano Tellez, 31, of Angier, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle, felony hit-and-run and other charges in connection with a fatal hit-and-run involving a tractor-trailer
Two people who were in the car with Tellez told authorities that he had been drinking. He had been convicted in 2005 in Wake County on a prior DWI conviction and was wanted for violating terms of his probation.