IN NOT SO GOOD HANDS

By James H. Reza, Ft. Worth, Texas

Just recently I went to pay my car insurance. While there, a couple walked in who needed some information on their car’s insurance policy. As the man struggled in broken English to make himself understood, the non-Spanish speaking secretary behind the desk could not make heads or tails of what he was saying.

Observing the chaotic verbal dialogue, I came to the conclusion that the gentleman was either an illegal immigrant from Mexico, or an American Hispanic who had poor English speaking skills.

Shortly, the secretary (who knew I was an Hispanic) asked me to assist her in her troubled situation. Half-heartedly, I helped her. After explaining (in Spanish) to the man and his wife that they had adequate insurance coverage for their vehicles, I was thanked by both the Hispanic couple and my insurance’s secretary. However, before the Hispanic couple left, I mildly scolded them in not taking the time to learn English. Both agreed that I was giving them some sound advice.

As I pondered on the situation, I sort of got angry with my insurance provider. I said to myself, “How in the world can insurance providers sell auto insurance to drivers who have little to no comprehension of the English language?” My insurance provider in essence is allowing non-speaking, and non-reading English drivers to drive in our neighborhoods and highways with little to no understanding of the messages conveyed in English on our street and highway signs to alert drivers to the dangers or precautionary problems on any given road.

Let me share with you some startling figures and some tragic stories I’ve researched and found in the internet. In our country, highway fatalities account for more than 94% of all transportation deaths. There were an estimated 6,289,000 car accidents with 3.4 million injuries, and 41,611 people killed in these accidents in 1999.

The total number of people killed in highway crashes in 2001 was 42,116, compared to 41,945 in 2000. An average of 114 people die each day in car crashes in the U.S. Now you folks out there tell me, “Do we need drivers who can’t speak or read English driving on our roads to add to the already deplorable statistics on traffic fatalities and accidents?”

Experts on the front lines agree that extreme drunkenness is not uncommon in DUI arrests of Latinos. Austin police officer Robert Smith, who has worked the late-night drunk patrol for over three years, noted higher rates of blood alcohol: “One thing I have noticed is that the Hispanics I arrest for DWI, 90 percent of the time, are more drunk than the white and black people I arrest.”

Assistant Dean at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas Raul Caetano put it this way: “The profile of a drunk driver in California is a young Hispanic male, and I bet you have a similar situation all over the Southwest.” He referred to a national survey, saying, “The traditional pattern of drinking in Mexico is one of infrequent drinking of high amounts.” [A troubling trend: Hispanics and DWI Latinos account for nearly half of 2002 Austin arrests By Claire Osborn and Andy Alford, Austin American Statesman, July 20, 2003]

Statistics from Austin support the observations of these men: Of 3,007 drunken driving arrests in 2002, 43 percent involved Hispanic men, even though they comprised only about 11 percent of the city's driving population. And the story is similar elsewhere: North Carolina drunk driving arrests of Hispanics in 2000 amounted to 12.3 percent of the total 87,781 DUI arrests, while Latinos were 4.7 percent of the population according to the Census.

Beyond the drunk driving statistics are tragedies that have been devastating to American families. Kenny Shackleford lost his 19-year-old son Christopher to a drunk-driving illegal alien. “I view drunk drivers as highway terrorists,” Shackleford said,” They’re terrorizing everybody, they're killing people right and left.”

In another heartbreaking auto incident, Tricia Taylor, 18, of Clarkston, Michigan, and companion Noah Menard, were walking to his car after attending a concert in Pontiac when both were struck and severely injured by Jose Carcamo, whose car was traveling between 50 and 75 miles per hour on a street posted for 25 mph. One report stated that Carcamo has had 17 violations since 1995. The INS had twice begun deportation proceeding against Carcamo to return him to El Salvador, but did not follow through. In this crime, Carcamo was found to have been driving under the influence, with a blood alcohol level of .08.

As Tricia Taylor stated at Carcamo's sentencing, “What you give him won't come close to the sentence he gave me for the rest of my life.” She lost both legs above the knees and faces a life of pain and disability, while Carcamo will serve only 3 to 5 years in prison.

To add injury to insult, and are also contributors to this hidden and allowed national disgrace are car dealers who sell automobiles to illegal aliens. Car dealers are a major factor that contribute to endangering the lives of our loved ones on the road when they sell their autos to illegal aliens who are non-reading and non-speaking English drivers. Just this week, I noticed several used car dealers on Jacksboro Highway advertising in Spanish, “No tiene licencia? Pues compre su auto aqui. Se habla Espanol.” (“You don’t have a driver’s license? Well, then buy your car here. We speak Spanish.”) Come on folks, what are these car dealers saying? Let me break it down for you, “We don’t care if you are breaking the law, we want your money and you can drive, amigo!”

Finally, and I close with a sad note, I just visited a DPS office close to my house, and was sickened when a DPS officer informed me that drivers who don’t speak, or write English, are allowed to take their driving tests in Spanish. Folks, something just stinks to high heaven! As the old saying goes, “The foxes are guarding the hen house!” As always, I’ve tried to warn you, but you are not listening!