Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, is a Washington D.C. based alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies working together to make America's roads safer. The web site goes on to state that Advocates encourages the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that save lives and reduce injuries. The organization just released their 2013 ROADMAP OF STATE HIGHWAY SAFETY LAWS: Tenth Annual Roadmap Report Grades States on Highway Safety Laws As Crash Deaths Show Increase in 2012. This comprehensive report gives some startling statistics and makes some recommendations for legislative action on behalf of various states.
Tragically, 1,140 children ages 14 and younger died in motor vehicle accidents in 2011. Of this total, approximately 182, or 16%, of these children were killed in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. To get a better understanding of the extent of this grossly irresponsible behavior, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration conducted a U.S. telephone survey, in 1999, that estimated somewhere between 46,000,000 and 102,000,000 drunk- driving trips are made each year with children under the age of 15 in the vehicle. If you were to take the average of those figures then almost 75 million drunk driving trips are made every year while children 15 and younger are inside of the vehicle being operated by a drunk driver!
In yet another study, The Centers For Disease Control, examined crashes involving impaired drivers and found that among over 5,000 child passenger deaths that occurred in 2000, more than sixty percent of the children who
were killed were riding in the vehicle driven by an impaired driver.
Impaired drivers who transported a child who was killed in a crash were more
likely than other drivers to have had a prior license suspension or previous convictions for DUI or DWI. These problem drivers continue to take risks
with not only their own lives, but also endanger the lives of children.
Additionally, the CDC study also found that only eighteen percent of children who were killed in a crash while riding in the impaired driver's vehicle were properly restrained. In comparison, nearly thirty one percent of children killed in a crash while riding with a non-impaired driver were properly restrained.
So what does the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety suggest? Its report also states that child endangerment laws are enacted to encourage people to strongly consider the harsh consequences before they drive while impaired with a child in their vehicle. The Advocates state that adequately defined and properly enforced, child endangerment laws act as a strong deterrent that protects children.
Child endangerment laws are created to either set forth a separate offense
or enhance existing Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) penalties for people who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a minor child in the vehicle. Drivers who engage in this conduct not only create a hazardous situation for themselves and for others on the roadways, but also put a child - who rarely has a choice as to who is driving - at risk of being serious injured or killed.
The Advocates report also goes on to state that numerous states have existing child endangerment laws to address child abuse, but many of these laws are not clearly defined when it comes to situations involving impaired driving. Some of these cases involving the prosecution of child endangerment cases require that the state prove intent and overcome the defense that the act was unintentional. An offense of driving while impaired with a child in the vehicle is rarely charged as child abuse. Therefore, by creating a separate offense for driving while impaired with a child in the vehicle, enforcement of the law is improved and public awareness is heightened.
In an effort to develop enhanced statutes throughout the country the Advocates point out that currently, forty two states and the District of Columbia have enacted child endangerment laws that increase penalties for people who drive while impaired with children in their vehicle. Only eight states, the report claims, which includes CT (AK, IN, MO, NM, PA, SD, and VT) need to enact such laws.
What do you think?
Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. He is a member of the CT DMV Commissioner's Advisory Committee on Teen Safe Driving. He has been named a New England Super Lawyer and is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut" and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents." He has also co-authored the best selling book "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing- What Your Insurance Company Doesn't Want You to Know and Won't Tell You Until It's Too Late!" He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.