Thursday, December 07, 2006

Male Hispanics responsible for disproportionate number of fatal car crashes

Jared Allen:

As a percentage of Nashville’s population, male Hispanics have been responsible for a greater percentage of fatal traffic accidents this year than any other demographic, police data show.

Now, recognizing they have a very real problem on their hands, leaders of Nashville’s Hispanic community are launching the first-ever coordinated campaign to educate the Middle Tennessee Latino community about the dangers of drunk driving.

“Drinking and driving is a problem within the Latino community as within other groups of the community at large,” Conexión Américas Executive Director Jose Gonzalez wrote in a press release announcing the partnering of Conexion, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), State Farm Insurance, Metro Police, and Hispanic media to begin the awareness campaign.

But statistics show they may have their work cut out for them.

While the U.S. Census bureau estimates that Hispanics made up approximately 6.3 percent of Nashville’s population in 2004, police say they were responsible for 17 percent of the fatal car wrecks that have occurred so far in 2006.

Nashville’s approximately 93 percent of people of other races and ethnic groups combined, were responsible for the other 83 percent of this year’s fatal traffic accidents.

As of the end of last week, there have been 79 fatal traffic accidents this year, resulting in the deaths of 89 persons, police said.

Since the summer, Nashville’s Hispanic leaders have weathered a tempest caused by a number of deadly, high- profile accidents police say came at the hands of Latinos, three quarters of whom were allegedly drunk, and some who have been identified as illegal immigrants.

“As a cultural group, Hispanics are responsible for more fatal accidents then they are entitled to... based on their percentage of the population,” said Metro Police Sgt. William Keeter, supervisor of traffic analysis, hit and runs and fatal crash investigations.

From Gustavo Garcia – arrested and charged in June for DUI and the vehicular homicide of a Mt. Juliet couple – to Julio Villasana – indicted last week on charges of DUI and driving head-first into a motorcycle ridden by Gibson Guitar’s Charlie Derrington, killing him – news of the arrests of multiple Hispanics on drunk driving and vehicular homicides has created a firestorm in Nashville.

Not only did the issue become a part of the governor’s race, it prompted Nashville’s top three law enforcement officers to team up and ask the federal government for the authority to begin its own deportation proceedings on illegal aliens being booked into the Nashville jail.

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