Over half of all children killed in drunk driving crashes are killed while riding with the drunk driver. Most of the time, that person is old enough to be a parent or caregiver.
These calls are some of the most gut-wrenching that MADD takes. In fact, if someone you know is driving drunk with a child in the car, we have some tips available for you.
We also urge you to call our toll-free, 24-hour support line at 877-MADD-HELP.
This is an issue we take very seriously. No child should be in danger from drunk driving, especially by those entrusted to keep them safe. We believe that drunk driving is criminal and irresponsible, and having a child in the car elevates this criminal act to child abuse.
Black’s Law Dictionary defines child abuse as:
When a child's parent or custodian, by reason of cruelty, mental incapacity, immorality or depravity, is unfit to properly care for him or her, or neglects or refuses to provide necessary physical, affectional, medical, surgical or institutional care for him or her or is under such improper care or control as to endanger his or her morals or health.
Clearly, driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle – child endangerment – is “improper care... so as to endanger his or her morals or health” and thus constitutes child abuse. Therefore, additional sanctions should be placed on those who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a child in the vehicle—regular sanctions and treatment are not enough.
43 states and the District of Columbia have laws enhancing penalties for those who drive drunk with a child passenger in a vehicle. The laws vary widely in severity and definition of a child passenger. For example in New York it is a felony to drive drunk with a child passenger under the age of 16, whereas in Wisconsin, the same offense is a misdemeanor.
Please email your representatives letting them know that you want a stronger child endangerment law in your state.
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