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The Relationship Between Drunk Driving and Child Fatalities

texture-mashup-754020-m.jpgIt is common to imagine that most drunk driving crashes hurt or kill someone not known to the drunk driver. Disturbingly, a new study published in Pediatrics found that the majority of children who die in car crashes related to alcohol consumption are passengers in the car of the drunk driver.

According to the study, about 1210 kids below the age of 15 were killed in a car wreck in 2010. 1 out of 5 of those crashes involved drunk driving.

The study’s researchers evaluated fatal car accidents using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. They found that between 2001-2010, 2344 children under the age of 15 died in 2075 car wrecks involving drunk drivers. 65% of these rode with drunk drivers. In those ten years, the number of child passengers that were killed while riding in a drunk driver’s car went down by 41%.

The study’s author said that it wasn’t clear what precipitated the drop in deaths, but he hypothesized it could be related to all of the anti-drunk driving campaigns and increased use of child seatbelts. However, about 61% of the kids studied who died as passengers of drunk drivers were not buckled up and properly restrained. As the child’s age and driver’s blood alcohol level went up, the likelihood that the child was adequately restrained went down. The study’s author noted that in 70% of these cases, the drunk driver survived and this suggested that the child might have lived if only he or she had been buckled up.

Researchers found that the rate of children’s deaths varied from state to state. Laws and policies also vary on a state by state basis. Dr. Michael Siegel, from the Boston University School of Public Health, has studied the policies from multiple states and said that the pattern of children’s death corresponded with the strengthening of their alcohol levels. He found the study to be solid.

The highest rates of children’s deaths were in South Dakota, Mississippi and New Mexico, while the lowest rates were New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York. Many states have child endangerment laws that include drunk driving with a child in the car constituting child endangerment.

In Maine, ยง554 of the Criminal Code defines various scenarios that count as child endangerment. Maine’s Criminal Code does not explicitly list the scenario of drunk driving with a child as child endangerment. However, it provides that a person is guilty of endangering the welfare of a child if that person recklessly endangers the health, safety, or welfare of a child under 16 years of age by violating a duty of care.

The study’s author and researchers proposed that reductions in the number of deaths could result from zero-tolerance laws, sobriety checkpoints, enforcement of blood alcohol limits and minimum drinking ages. The study’s author also believes breathalyzers could be installed in cars to reduce the number of deaths. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has encouraged all states to make driving drunk with a child passenger a felony offense, and suggested that an ignition interlock device should be mandated for anyone convicted.

If your child was hurt or killed by a drunk driver, an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC at (888) 596-1099 or through our website today.

More Blog Posts:

Child Safety in Maine: Graco Recall of Car Seats, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, March 18, 2014
Attitudes about Speeding in Maine and Elsewhere, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, March 11, 2014