This summer, the Colorado Department of Transportation launched its driver-safety campaign titled “A Few Can Still be Dangerous.” This message for the general public came from results of a CDOT survey last year which revealed that 70 percent of young men ages 21-35 in the state of Colorado believe that they are safe to drive after consuming two or three drinks. But will this message reach the 21 percent of Colorado’s population that is Hispanic, and for whom Spanish is their primary spoken language? CDOT teamed up with Denver band iZCALLi for a fun, innovative approach to spreading the message and hopefully raising awareness that driving after a couple drinks is still driving impaired.
In Colorado, 150 people are killed in alcohol-related auto accidents every year, and more than 26,000 people are arrested for DUI, according to the CDOT website. Sam Cole, safety and communications manager for CDOT, explained that it was important to create this bilingual PSA to not exclude Hispanics from messaging about driving impaired, especially younger people who are more at risk for impaired driving. The median age of Hispanics in Colorado is 27 years old, versus non-Hispanic whites, whose median age is forty years old, which demonstrates the importance of getting this message to the younger Hispanic demographic.
“The challenge was to create a culturally and linguistically appropriate way to reach this demographic,” Cole says. “We were looking for someone who could communicate and connect. We looked to celebrities, which led to rock bands, and Miguel [Avina] jumped at the opportunity when we reached out.”
Avina, lead singer and guitarist of Denver-based band iZCALLi, which was the featured band at Westword's Tacolandia event, has been delivering a similar message at his own shows about partying responsibly. At the close of iZCALLi concerts, Avina will typically thank everyone as the band says goodnight and encourage fans to “make sure you get home safe” or “make sure we see you again.” Avina explains that these announcements at the close of the show are not to shame people about drinking, but rather are focused on making the right decision in getting home safe.
“We see a lot of exposure to alcohol and other drugs in the environment we are in as musicians,” Avina says. “There has to be a conversation around what happens after the show or the after-party, whatever the case may be. There is not enough conversation around it, and we have to bring awareness to the dangers around drinking and driving.” Aside from being a musician, Avina has also been the Operations Officer at IDEA, an organization that works to eliminate substance abuse in Aurora. Due to his firsthand involvement with the organization and observing the impacts of substance abuse in the community, Avina feels passionately about utilizing his platform as a musician to spread the message and raise awareness. “Music is very emotional and can capture people’s attention,” Avina says. “You can incorporate messages you would like to, and what better time [than at a show] to slip a message in that will benefit everyone. We already have their attention jumping around on stage. [The message] has to be authentic to really resonate with people, [and this] is a real-life message.”
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Riley Cowing has been writing with Westword since July 2016. She is originally from Kansas City and graduated from the journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She enjoys connecting with local artists, drinking all types of espresso and loves any excuse to watch The Devil Wears Prada.