SACRAMENTO: The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is planning to launch a campaign to increase seat-belt use and decrease drunk driving accidents among African Americans.
"Two major causes of fatal collisions are unrestrained passengers and alcohol use, said CHP commissioner D.O. Helmick. "National research indicates African Americans are less likely to use safety belts, and more likely to die in an alcohol-related crash. We want to do research to test these conclusions in California, and change behaviors if they're true."
The law enforcement agency recently received a $2 million, two-year federal grant from the Office of Traffic Safety to fund the new initiative. One million of that will fund an awareness campaign, which will begin in November.
The CHP has closed bidding on that project, but will not choose an agency until later this month.
Before that public affairs campaign begins, the CHP is researching the issue through community symposiums and meetings with African-American leaders to ensure that the program carries a positive message, and doesn't appear to unfairly target the minority group.
The CHP has come under fire from The American Civil Liberties Union and African-American activists in the past on charges that it unfairly targets blacks and Latinos for traffic stops.
But the CHP said the African-American community has responded well to this proposal.
"Mainly, we're trying to tell people to save lives by buckling up, said CHP public information officer Anne DaVigo. "If that's what you're trying to do, it's pretty hard to be against it."