Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hispanic traffic safety outreach effort launched

The City of Austin and the Austin Police Department's Hispanic police association, Amigos en Azul (Friends in Blue), are teaming up in an effort to increase awareness about drunk driving and traffic safety.

Last year's statistics have moved officers into action. Fourty-four percent of DWI arrests in 2004 were Hispanics. Hispanics made up a third of all traffic deaths as well.

This year, 12 out of the 19 traffic deaths in Austin were Hispanic. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for Hispanics ages 0-24 years old.

A new awareness and outreach campaign effort is called "Corazon de Azul" (Blue Heart). It's designed to get Hispanic leaders into churches and civic groups to get the Hispanic community thinking about safer driving.

The effort effort aims to increase awareness about drunk driving and traffic safety for Austin's Hispanic population.

"I'm very excited about. I'm very passionate about the issue because it's having such a tremendous impact on Hispanic community. I live in the city of Austin. My kids live in the city of Austin. They drive in the city of Austin. And, I just want to make the city safer for everybody," Lt. Ernest Pedraza, APD and member of Amigos en Azul, said.

Pedraza calls it a re-education process, changing behavior and the preconceived notions about driving.

"A lot of immigrants are coming into this country, and they're coming from countries where the traffic laws are very different from what we have in the United States," Pedraza said.

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