Proposed Pennsylvania Law Would Make Drunk Drivers Pay Support to Children of Those They Killed

A newly proposed Pennsylvania law would require drunk drivers who cause deadly accidents to pay support to the children of those they killed.

State Representative Anthony DeLuca (D-Pittsburgh) is currently seeking co-sponsors in the House of Representatives for the legislation.

“There is nothing that can be done to bring back the loved ones lost to the reckless, selfish decisions of drunk drivers,” DeLuca wrote in a memorandum on his bill. “However, this measure aims to further deter drunk driving and ensure that those who suffer the tragic consequences of losing a family member are given the justice they deserve.”

The legislation would keep such support orders in place until a child turns 18 as a component of the sentence drunk drivers receive and in addition to any other restitution to be paid. Under current law, families seeking child support in the wake of drunk-driving accidents must litigate against the perpetrator. DeLuca lamented the pain that families go through as they endure yet another legal case dealing with their loss and the additional burden that these lawsuits place upon the court system.

DeLuca’s measure follows similar efforts in other states. Over the last several months, Missouri resident Cecilia Williams has championed legislation called Bentley’s Law. It is named after her grandson, who lost his parents, Lacey Newton and Cordell Williams, and his 4-month-old brother, Cordell Shawn Michael Williams, in an alleged drunk-driving crash.

State representatives in Tennessee recently passed their own version of the law, which had the support of all legislators and which Governor Bill Lee (R) is expected to sign. Proposals with these child support provisions have gotten introduced in at least 15 other states.

An average of 28 people are killed in drunk-driving accidents in the U.S. each day. A Pennsylvania motorist is considered to be driving under the influence if he or she has a blood-alcohol content level of 0.8 or more.

According to recent remarks by Tennessee State Rep. Mark Hall (R-Cleveland), the principal sponsor of his state’s bill, the risk that a drunk driver will cause an accident rises exponentially with each repeat offense. In his state, he said, the chances of a first-time intoxicated motorist getting convicted of a second violation is 17 percent; those with second convictions have a 70 percent chance of committing a third violation.

After the Tennessee measure passed, Mothers Against Drunk Driving President Alex Otte voiced her strong support for the bills that have been introduced so far across the nation.

“MADD supports Bentley’s Law and similar bills that hold drunk driving offenders accountable,” she said. “Too often, offenders are able to move on with their lives even after killing someone, while victims and survivors are reminded every day of their loss. The idea behind Bentley’s Law is to both provide a sense of justice to victims and survivors and make sure offenders are reminded of the heartbreak they caused by making the choice to drive impaired.”

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].



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