Lynn Brezosky, AP, Valley Morning Star Online (TX), May 25
CAMERON PARK — Armed with statistics showing that Hispanic children are twice as likely to die in car wrecks than white children, a Latino group began its national campaign Tuesday to promote the use of child safety seats.
The National Latino Children’s Institute chose this border community to kick off its tour largely because of its large immigrant population.
“A lot of people come from countries that do not have laws in reference to child safety seats, or even wearing safety belts,” said Jose Alberto Ucles, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which works with the institute on the program.
“They are not used to it. It wasn’t part of the system.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Latino children are twice as likely to die in motor vehicle accidents as whites, even though Latino parents drive half as many miles.
The heavily Hispanic Rio Grande Valley has one of the state’s lowest rate of child safety seat use. A 2003 survey by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University found that 73.3 percent of Texas children under 5 were being buckled.
In Brownsville, it was 50.1 percent. The highest rate was Austin, with 89.6 percent.
“We’ve actually tried to step up enforcement,” Brownsville Police Chief Carlos Garcia said. “We have a lot of people that are poor and say they can’t afford it, but that’s no excuse. They can afford a lot of things, They can afford a car seat.”
Dubbed “Corazon de mi Vida” (love of my life), the campaign brings instructors to cities around the United States for five-day training seminars to certify volunteers.
The volunteers then train people in the community to properly use and install the car seats. Ford Motor Co. and Nationwide Insurance are together donating about 100 car seats per location.