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Bolivian 'traffic zebras' help enforce road safety in La Paz

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What's black, white and red at traffic stops?

Drivers in La Paz, Bolivia know the answer: Stop lights and "traffic zebras."

In a safety initiative sponsored by city authorities, groups of young people dressed in distinctive zebra costumes jump into intersections at light changes to make sure vehicles stop at red lights, Sky News reported Monday.

The zebras also make sure pedestrians at the crossings wait until it's safe to cross. Watch the zebras in action in this YouTube video.

The costumes were inspired by the stripes of pedestrian crosswalks, known there as "zebra crossings."

About 350 youth ages 16-22 participate in the initiative, according to a CCTV.com report. They are employed by the country's "Mama Zebra" program, which helps at-risk youth find jobs and use that money towards education.

The program has been in place since 2001, according to the U.S. Embassy in La Paz. Embassy employees joined the zebras in 2011 in the "Zebra for a Day" program, which allows volunteers to assist the zebras in their work once a week.

"Traffic zebra" Nelson said: "It means a lot for me to be dressed in a zebra costume. The work isn't just about helping others - we do it because we really love it."

Another participant, Rebecca, said, "Before becoming a zebra, I lived a messy life. Now I know our city better and hope to change with it and express myself."

"Nobody can see my face and my smile, but I can help others and feel truly happy."

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