Tulsa agencies working at getting Hispanic children 'buckled up'

Tuesday, October 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

National statistics show Hispanic children are 72% more likely to die in a traffic accident, because they are less likely to be in a car safety seat. News on 6 reporter Rick Wells found local agencies working to change that.

Cassandra is 1 years old, and she is in line with her mother at EMSA's once a month free car seat check. Santa Ramirez is getting car seats for Cassandra and for her baby due later this month. The car seat will keep Cassandra safer while she's riding in the car.

New information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows death rates in car accidents are much higher for Hispanic children than for non-Hispanic, white children. NHTSA says the reason many Hispanics don't have car seats or don't use them properly.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol conducts annual compliance surveys and seatbelt and car seat usage in Tulsa is improving. OHP trooper Pat Mays: "In Tulsa we have an over 80% compliance rate." But their surveys consider all vehicles on the road and don't break the numbers down by ethnic group. He does say difficulties with English could explain compliance problems among Hispanics.

Agencies like the YWCA's Intercultural Service Center help bridge the gap. Maria Reyes: "We try to educate on the laws of the US and of Tulsa." They help with translations, English language classes and more. She says they helped 14,000 people last year, the vast majority Hispanic.

EMSA says their backseat buddies car seat checks bring in a cross section of the community but always a significant number of Hispanics, many who speak no English, so the word is getting out perhaps better here than elsewhere in the country. Now the challenge for Santa Ramirez is keeping Cassandra buckled up when she clearly doesn't want to be.

EMSA's Back Seat Buddies program has given away more than 6,300 car seats in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa since 2001. EMSA conducts the free checks the first Tuesday of each month.

For more information check out EMSA's web site at www.emsaonline.com.