Governor’s Office of Highway Safety

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Alberto Gutier, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety joins HORIZONTE to discuss what his office is doing to keep you safe on Arizona roads.

José Cárdenas:
The governor's office of highway safety is responsible for increasing public awareness of safety on Arizona roads. They do this by addressing issues such as drunk driving and aggressive driving. Joining me to talk more about this office is Alberto Gutier, returning as director of the governor's office of highway safety. And Alberto, returning as a guest on "Horizonte." You were talking about election issues and now you're back in a role you're familiar with.

Alberto Gutier:
Good to be back.

José Cárdenas:
How long has it been since you held the position?

Alberto Gutier:
I spent eight years on the governor's assignment and left when Governor Napolitano took office and then back after six years in the job.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about the scope of responsibilities that your office has.

Alberto Gutier:
What we do mostly is 90% of our job is to pass federal grant dollars for high safety into sheriff offices and organizations like MADD and SADD and to hospitals to promote issues we have. Like child safety seats and promoting use of seat belts and I'm dedicated to things that are critical. Like preventing drunk driving and making sure that people don't run red lights and or speed.

José Cárdenas:
How does it compare to the priorities the last time you held this position?

Alberto Gutier:
I'm going back to the old priorities because it got fuzzy over the years and did things that I thought was not the main issue, which is to provide the federal grant dollars so we can have overtime for the officers especially in this economy. Our office can provide specific programs the overtime for the officers that are needed and plus public safety and others and they can control, etc.; organizations that are desperate for those dollars.

José Cárdenas:
You may be focusing on the same issues but perhaps the problems are greater?

Alberto Gutier:
The drunk driving hasn't gone away. I remember passing a bunch of legislation. Even in the last six years, I was able to get bills through. With all of the toughest laws in the country, we still have an incredible incidence of drunk driving. Look at the last weekend. The average was 1.49. That's double the limit as permitted under Arizona law.

José Cárdenas:
That would be the blood alcohol content.

Alberto Gutier:
Right.

José Cárdenas:
This is a problem for all kinds of people, but I know in the past, the department has had or your agency has had a particular focus on dealing with the Hispanic community and perhaps cultural issues in terms of communication with the immigrant community.

Alberto Gutier:
I think what it was a good program, which we're going to continue on a limited basis because of the funding and some of the employees doing the program are now writing grants and doing other things. But a lot of the community do not wear seat belts. Worse, they don't place their children in child safety seats. The law is clear. A child under the age of five. And from five to eight, to be in a booster seat. A lot of the families don't understand because you have -- they don't have those laws in their own country. They don't wear a seat belt in a crash, they're going to go through the windshield. And a lot of Hispanics think the child should be held in the front seat.

José Cárdenas:
I think you showed that the Hispanic males don't like to wear seat belts in terms of other groups and the Hispanic female mother wants to hold their babies.

Alberto Gutier:
And there's child safety seats available for free and they're taught how to install them. Because not properly installed, it's no good. The baby is going to fly out of the window in a crash. How many crashes have we seen where there's a major crash, and the baby is in a child safety seat has survived the crash? Those programs are important and continue to emphasize that with the Hispanic community and others to make sure that people understand what the law is and save lives and prevent injuries.

José Cárdenas:
You're Cuban by birth. Do you think that helps to communicate with Hispanics on these issues?

Alberto Gutier:
I'm going to do something on a show next week and the importance of this program, and the Hispanic television has been a terrific source, so has "Horizonte," in getting the message out, to wear seat belts and also the drinking and driving problem. People don't realize how tough it is and what happens to the families who are working and maintaining a lifestyle and they get a D.U.I. and they're going to be in deep trouble.

José Cárdenas:
Your number one priority in the new job?

Alberto Gutier:
To have enough funds to continue the programs and provide the things I like to do. Overtime, to make sure we have enough programs for child safety seats and seat belts, and training for the officers around the state.

José Cárdenas:
Congratulations on your new position. New old position. Thank you for joining us.

Alberto Gutier:
Thank you.

Alberto Gutier:Director, Governor's Office of Highway Safety;

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