Particulars of car wrecks aren't always easy to decipher even when all of the involved speak the same language. Some people are injured and too incapacitated to speak. At times, people are too panicked, too stunned, too shocked, too grieved, too inebriated to make much sense. Witnesses and those involved often have conflicting accounts of what happened.
Throw a second language into the mix of a traffic accident. On-scene investigation and first aid become more perplexing and potentially more hazardous.
On Sunday, authorities arrived at a traffic accident in Stockton. Early reports had a northbound, green Ford Ranger and a westbound, red Ford Explorer colliding at the intersection of Ga. 129 and U.S. 84. From the Ford Explorer, one person died and four others were injured. The victims were reportedly all Hispanics.
In Monday's edition of The Valdosta Daily Times, this newspaper reported: "Names of the dead and injured were not immediately available because none of the survivors could speak English ... For the same reason, statements hadn't been taken from the wreck victims as of Sunday afternoon."
This is no fault of the responding Georgia State trooper or other individual authorities responding to the accident. But these officials' supervising agencies should have a network in place for calling in a translator.
Given South Georgia's growing Hispanic population, emergency agencies should implement either a network of on-call translators for wrecks, have a designated Spanish-speaking representative, or teach each representative the basics of conversational Spanish. Already, a few area law-enforcement agencies employ at least one Spanish-speaking officer, who can be called into situations such as Sunday's wreck in Stockton.
Knowing the language in an emergency can translate into saving lives. Having someone who knows the language translates into common sense in the face of South Georgia's growing Hispanic community.
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