Culturally relevant telenovela episodes illustrate the serious consequences of drinking and driving

This month the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will be airing an educational campaign in a mini telenovelas series format in an effort to educate the Hispanic community about the consequences of drinking and driving. TxDOT is one of the first state agencies to tackle the dangers of drinking and driving through the telenovela format.

“We created these educational telenovelas on drinking and driving to reach Hispanic women and men who may be unfamiliar with Texas drunk driving laws,” said Carol T. Rawson P.E., TxDOT Traffic Operations Director. “We chose the telenovela format because historically, Hispanic families tend to develop an emotional connection with these series and their characters. We believe it’s an effective way to encourage people to take the initiative and not let the people they care about get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking.”

In Texas, drinking and driving poses a great danger for Hispanics, where they make up over one third of the population. Key statistics:

  • 33 percent of all DUI fatalities in Texas in 2009 occurred in crashes where a Hispanic driver was under the influence of alcohol. (TxDOT, CRIS)
  • 21 percent of all Hispanic DUI drivers involved in crashes in 2009 had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above. (TxDOT, CRIS)
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics one to 44 years of age, and 15 percent of U.S.-born Mexican Americans had a DUI within the past 12 months according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

To address these alarming facts, TxDOT created three short Spanish telenovelas that follow the members of a Hispanic family as they experience drinking and driving situations. The goal is to relay information on how to proactively prevent drinking and driving, how to explain the consequences of drinking and driving to those unfamiliar with the laws, and how drinking and driving can affect the lives of young adults.

Drinking and driving is more common in countries like Mexico than in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, many Central and South American countries don’t have any real impaired driving laws in place, or in some instances, these laws exist but aren’t strictly enforced or penalties are lenient enough to not carry the possibility of a prison sentence. For that reason, many newly arrived immigrants are unaware of state drinking and driving laws, including the blood alcohol concentration limit, stiff penalties, and the overall consequences of driving under the influence.

The telenovelas will air as thirty second and two minute spots on Univision, Estrella, and Telefutura for two weeks beginning June 20 in markets throughout Texas including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Rio Grande Valley, and San Antonio. This period includes the July 4th holiday when many of the markets will be participating in high visibility enforcement and no refusal crackdowns. The three, two-minute episodes will also be available online at the Texas Department of Transportation’s YouTube Channel and will be used as teaching tools by civic and social service organizations throughout the state.

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