Texas Makes Telenovelas

Oh the drama of it all. During the middle of the night a startled couple awakes to a phone call, the mother answers and it’s from the local hospital informing her that her son, Alberto, has been involved in a horrible accident. She breathes heavily, asks a flurry of questions, and dashes to the hospital with her husband (cue dramatic music). Husband goes into an angry monologue, family is reunited, and son is ok.

Sound like a telenovela? That’s because it is. The Texas Department of Transportation launched a series of mini telenovelas this month in an effort to educate the Hispanic community about the consequences of drinking and driving.

The three telenovelas follow the members of a Hispanic family as they experience drinking and driving situations. The episodes aired as thirty second and two minute spots on Univision, Estrella, and Telefutura during the evening news for two weeks in late November.

One of the telenovelas involves the aforementioned parents rushing to the hospital where their son, Alberto, is in bandages from a drunk driving accident. His parents assume it was someone else's fault, but to their dismay—dramatic pause—Alberto was the one drinking and driving.

While the recipe for good old fashioned telenovelas can draw some laughs, their influence and popularity in the Latino community is no joke and neither is the disturbing trend between Latinos and drunk driving.

According to the Department of Transportation, 36% of all DUI fatalities in Texas in 2009 occurred in crashes where a Hispanic driver was under the influence of alcohol.

In addition, 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.

"We created telenovelas to reach women and men in the Hispanic community," said Carol T. Rawson, DOT Traffic Operations Director. "We want to encourage people to take the initiative and not let the people they care about get behind the wheel after they've been drinking."

The goal is to relay information on how to proactively prevent drinking and driving, to explain the consequences of drinking and driving to those unfamiliar with the laws, and to explain how drinking and driving can affect the lives of young adults.

No word if Univisión has picked up any of the commercials for shows yet or if there are sequels in the works.