April 04, 2007

It's not often when you know the genesis of a story idea

...and you don't even know the reporter.

But this story, from Sunday's Raleigh News and Observer, well, it's not hard.

Hispanic DWIs rooted in immigrants' culture

When Eliseo Hernandez came to the United States 30 years ago, he thought he drove better after a few beers. Driving drunk had been normal back in Mexico, he said. But Hernandez, 54, learned of its perils firsthand. He quit the practice after falling asleep at the wheel and hitting a tree 18 years ago.

Then, last year, a young Hispanic man who authorities say was drunk nearly killed Hernandez's only son, Diego, in a crash on a rural Johnston County road. Eliseo Hernandez's daughter, who was nine months pregnant, lost her unborn child in the accident.

Hernandez has spent the past year following Diego through four hospitals and 14 brain surgeries. Diego only recently began to smile again and might never walk.

Hernandez said he hopes his painful journey will teach his friends and family a lesson. Car accidents are the top killer of Hispanics in North Carolina, and the disproportionate number of alcohol-related arrests and wrecks are an embarrassment to a minority already beleaguered by hard feelings over illegal immigration.

"It makes the Mexicans look bad, very bad," Hernandez said. "The American people say 'Oh, it's just another Hispanic, the same as the others.' "

It was a commonly held assumption among the Orange County sheriff's deputies and other local cops that a hispanic man driving to the ABC (state-owned liquor store) was probably already drunk.  And that if you pulled over a hispanic man, chances are he would fail a roadside sobriety test.

DWIs are far higher among hispanics than any other culture in NC, and for a while this was seen as racial profiling by police and State Troopers.  In CA, many times the DWI hispanic driver is also an illegal alien. Interesting now to see this article owning that DWI/DUI is sometimes part of the culture.

The first step is admitting you have a problem.

Posted by caltechgirl at April 4, 2007 07:22 PM | TrackBack

But if it's part of their culture, then it must be okay. Right?

Posted by: Contagion at April 5, 2007 04:06 PM

"The first step is admitting you have a problem."

That, or the first step is a night in jail. I prosecute DUI's, among other misdemeanors. It genuinely makes me sick just how wasted some of these people out on the road are, and how unbelievably irresponsible someone could be to drive in that state.

I also had a former colleague in a previous job who's now serving seven years in state prison for DUI manslaughter. EVERY DUI has the potential to end that way.

Posted by: Dave J at April 5, 2007 05:29 PM