UT Health Science Center partnering with Laredo agency to educate Hispanics, new immigrants on driving safety issues

Every 30 minutes, someone in the United States dies in an alcohol-related vehicle crash.
According to “Facts About: Drinking and Driving and… Hispanics,” a 2002 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration study:

• Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics between the ages of 1 and 44.
• Hispanic children ages 5 to 12 are at a higher risk and are 72 percent more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than non-Hispanic children.
• Hispanics are more likely to die in a crash involving alcohol than non-Hispanic white drivers.
• U.S-born Hispanics are about three times more likely to drink and drive than Hispanics born in other countries but who live in the United States.

For these reasons, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is partnering with the Office of Border Affairs in Laredo to implement the Madrina-Padrino Traffic Safety Project. Funded by the Texas Department of Transportation, the project has already been successful in the San Antonio area and is now being expanded to Webb County.

To implement the project, the Office of Border Affairs will identify groups in the area who may benefit from this traffic safety information, which includes issues related to drinking and impaired driving, safety belt use and child passenger safety.

“Partnering with community-based organizations is an essential piece of the Madrina-Padrino concept. Over the past two and a half years, thousands of adults in the San Antonio community have been successfully educated using the Madrina-Padrino model and we are ready to expand the project to an area where more than 95 percent of the population is Hispanic,” said Lizette Villarreal, M.A., coordinator of the project at the UT Health Science Center.

The Health Science Center is the coordinating agency and will provide training for local advocates, the program curriculum, incentives for program participants and a $6,500 stipend to assist with program costs, including incentives for program participants. The Health Science Center also will measure the effectiveness of the project. Although the current funding of $375,000 from the Texas Department of Transportation will end in 2008, the UT Health Science Center has applied for an additional three years of funding to continue the program in the border city.

“The Texas Department of Transportation is not only committed to building the safest highway system in the country, we are also committed to changing driver behavior through education programs such as the Madrina-Padrino project,” added Linda Tomasini, transportation funding administrator in the Texas Department of Transportation’s San Antonio District.

In addition to Villarreal and Tomasini, others expected to speak at the news conference include John Charles, traffic safety specialist from the Texas Department of Transportation Laredo District; Jaime Arispe, from the Office of Border Affairs, Health and Human Services Commission; Webb County Judge Danny Valdez; and Webb County commissioners Rosaura “Wawi” Tijerina and Jerry Garza.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $576 million and 5,000 faculty and staff, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to seven campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 23,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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