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Study Says Arrests for Drinking and Driving Highest Among Hispanic Population

Posted in Drunk Driving

A perplexing federal study says among the Hispanic population, car accidents are the third leading cause of fatalities – a trend likely attributed to drunk driving, substance abuse and social factors to maintain an overly-masculine attitude. In fact, the report also showed that in comparison to other races, Hispanic drivers represented a higher number of arrests and crashes for driving under the influence. Even more alarming, the study reported that car accidents are the chief cause of death for Hispanic young adults.

Issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the report was published in 1995. At that time, only 9 percent of drivers across the nation were Hispanic – but overall, 21 percent of arrests for driving under the influence were Hispanic drivers. Furthermore, Hispanic drivers were part of automobile accidents more often than black or Caucasian populations. While car crashes represented the third primary cause of fatalities across the entire Hispanic population, they were also the second most common cause of death among Hispanics aged 24-44 years old and the primary cause of fatalities for those in the younger category of 17 to 24 years old.

More than 100 agencies submitted study data collected by phone surveys and focus groups, substance abuse experts, social workers, clerical workers and police or law enforcement staff. Information from Community leaders was also included. Regions of the U.S. with higher Hispanic populations were the focus, including southwestern, western and eastern areas. Segments of the population were categorized, such as Guatemalan, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Salvadoran.

Social pressures to be “machismo” may be connected to higher rates of accidents and fatalities, reflected in activities such as speeding, drag racing, using alcohol and drugs together or attempting to drive while under the influence. Illiteracy may also be a factor, with study results suggesting some Latinos were unable to read traffic signs or purposely ignored them. The alarming trend to act macho may also be generational, with fathers reported to frequently purchase fast cars for their sons.

Other research statistics show that many Hispanics arrested for drunk driving may be illegal aliens; many others have been arrested previously for driving while intoxicated. Experts say the problem reflects generational alcoholism, a prolific situation among some segments of the Latino population.

In response to these dangerous study outcomes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has enhanced its driver education programs for Latinos. Favorable results have surfaced, including fewer infant deaths when mothers were more educated about the dangers of holding babies on their laps while driving. It is not yet known if deaths or injuries across the U.S. have been reduced since the report was published.

Overall, the Hispanic population represents the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, making the study findings extremely important in considering steps to help save lives and prevent injuries. Study results could also influence immigration and deportation laws.