After working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving® and supporters, Rhode Island has enhanced its child endangerment law so that driving while impaired with a child passenger is now a felony on the second offense.
It’s about time.
In 2016, 1,233 children died in car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of those, 214 children were killed in drunk driving crashes. More than half of the children were riding in the car with the drunk driver involved.
Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin sponsored the bill for the second year, and this time it was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. Last year, the bill passed the Senate but did not make it out of committee in the House.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s wrong. You’re going to be punished if you drive with a child in the car while drunk,” Goodwin said in a story by WPRI.com.
“We think felony enhancement would bring great deterrence to drunk drivers with children in their car.”
MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church advocated on behalf of the bill at a legislative press conference and throughout the year. She traveled to Rhode Island three times from March through June to highlight the importance of protecting children from drunk driving. One of those calls to action came shortly after a West Warwick man pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence with a 20-month-old baby in the vehicle. He was released on bail.
It’s about the children
It couldn’t be more clear, said MADD board member Kacey Fetcho-Phillips.
“Drunk and impaired driving is a crime. Nearly 40 percent … of roadway fatalities in Rhode Island involve alcohol. Rhode Island is rated the third-worst state in the nation for the strength of our drunk driving laws. We are behind our peers for legislative action to keep our citizens safe,” she said.