OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Drunk Driving and Child Endangerment
John Evans, Carl McDonald  -  2013/5/15
There are so many laws against drunk driving and yet accidents continue. Why do you believe these rules have been so hard to enforce?
1.  John
 Agreed, Jan. The staggering number of DWI citations written(est. 1.5 million/year) clearly shows law enforcement officers’ commitment to stop impaired drivers. With insurance issues, we challenge legislative proposals that would ultimately cause harm to an innocent victim of an impaired driver. If insurance companies refuse to pay for claims arising out of impaired driving crashes – the victims/survivors lose. Subrogation by the insurance company (recouping their expenses) from the driver at fault sounds like a more appropriate approach – but then we would have to debate why we require insurance.
2.  Jan
 I don't think enforcement is the issue from LE side. How do Insurance companies react to their customers arrests? Sure Premiums go up, licenses are affected per state law, but what about lobbying Insurance Industry to be HARDER on their drivers, refuse to insure them or better yet,refuse to pay claims if they are charged and convicted?
3.  John
 Another thought... the laws are not that hard to enforce. Law enforcement officers in most jurisdictions are highly trained to detect impairment and there is an over-abundance of arrests being made before crashes occur. Each time, potential deaths or injuries are prevented.
4.  John
 Unfortunately, many people within our communities equate “impaired” to staggering, unable to focus, falling-down drunk. They don’t consider how drastically our acute senses and reaction times are diminished nor what can happen in just a few second’s time. And seconds are all it takes for tragedy to occur.
5.  John
 Each state’s legislature passes laws that instruct certain consequences for breaking the laws that are meant to protect the community from the offensive actions. However, we see courts that do not sentence offenders as law dictates. Prosecutors are forced to plea cases due to the overwhelming volume of cases. Impaired driving is one of the most commonly committed crimes in our nation. The criminal justice process is defendant-based. Many jurors can empathize with a defendant, possibly having been in his/her shoes themselves. When a defendant appears in court they seldom resemble the image taken at the time of booking. Instead, they are clean, dressed well and could easily be our neighbor, co-worker or even family member.
6.  John
 Thank you for your question, Alison. There are many responses to this question. One profound statement I recently heard is, “Drunk driving doesn’t happen to YOU… until it does.” We see or hear stories of devastating crashes so often, but it rarely seems to be someone we know. The names of the victims quickly fade into the past. We hold hope that this will never happen to me and that sense of safety prevents us from imaging the truth – it could happen to me.
Do you believe that the recommendation by the NTSB of lowering the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol to 0.05% will actually save lives?
1.  Carl McDonald
 MADD commends the work of the NTSB and raising awareness to this 100 percent preventable crime. However MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving has been structured to maximize the number of lives saved as quickly as possible and, when fully implemented, is projected to save 8,000 lives per year. This number far exceeds the estimates of NTSB.
I know that some states have additional legal ramifications for driving while drunk and having children in the car. Is there any research on whether or not these penalities have acted as a deterrent to drunk driving?
1.  Carl McDonald
 Sheila - Contact the MADD Policy Office by writing to frank.harris@madd.org. He does a wonderful job in this area.
2.  Sheila
 Are you aware of efforts in those states (Alaska, Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Vermont) to develop similar statutes? Would love to know how I could get involved.
3.  Carl McDonald
 While most states now have some kind of endangerment statute, 43 states currently have statutes that create special sanctions for cases of driving under the influence / driving while intoxicated (DUI/DWI) while the offender is transporting a child at the time of the offense. States without these laws: Alaska, Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, South Dakota, Vermont We've seem some reductions after working hard to raise awareness of this issue and MADD believes we are making progress.
How many children are hurt each year from drunk driving incidents?
1.  Carl McDonald
 During the five-year period of 1997-2001, 1,985 child passengers died and an estimated 87,226 were injured in alcohol-related crashes. Sixty-eight (68) percent of the deaths and 38 percent of the injuries occurred among children who were riding in the same vehicle with the drinking driver. Of the children who died while riding in the same vehicle with the drinking driver, only 29 percent were known to have been restrained (restraint use was unknown for another 9 percent of child passenger deaths). As the BAC of the child’s driver increased, child restraint use decreased.
I imagine when a child is found to be a passenger in a drunk driving incident, there is additional coordination that is necesary among law enforcement, social services, etc. Are there models in any states for responding to these types of child endangerment situations?
1.  Carl McDonald
 Most states have developed a child death investigative team. These are great models, unfortunately some work needs to be done in the area of raising awareness in these teams that drunk driving with a child in the car is a criminal act they should/could focus on. There's a lot of work to be done in this area.
are child fatalities/injuries resulting from drunk driving on the rise?
1.  Carl McDonald
 That's a very good question. Unfortunately research dollars have been very limited in the last ten years so definitive answers are unavailable. We believe progress has been made, but we cannot say that with confidence.
Does MADD go to court on child custody cases?
1.  John
 Additionally, I should state that we are not in the business of determining which parent should gain custody based solely on the basis of a DWI/DUI.
2.  John
 MADD activists take a very active role in child custody issues involving drunk/drugged drivers. We have developed a Child Endangerment Packet which contains research and resources to help advocate on the child’s behalf, including specific conditions to incorporate into a separation/divorce agreement. Please request a packet from victims@madd.org.
How can we educate parents about letting underage kids drink alone? In my opinion, the systemic problem is there is no discussion about the detriments of drunk driving for kids, so kids can't understand the dangers of it. Is this an example of child endangerment?
1.  John
 Thanks for your input Mary Beth!
2.  Mary Beth
 Allot of money has been directed toward DUI issues, so, the marketing of this One issue has made an impact. Alcohol damaging adolescent brains, overdosing (binge drinking causing death) and alchol fueled crimes like assaults, rapes, etc. need to get that kind of exposure before people start to believe that alcohol damages physical, social and emotional development of a child.
3.  John
 Great question! We do consider child endangerment (children riding with impaired drivers) as a form of child neglect or abuse - maltreatment. Providing alcohol to minors is illegal and also endangers the health/well-being of our youth/children. Please visit madd.org and click on Underage Drinking to find more.
I'm often asked if Driving Drunk is Child Abuse and punishable in Family Court or is it a Criminal Charge punishable in the Criminal Court System?
1.  Carl McDonald
 Our recommendations to states have been to enhance the penalties for DUI with a child present and keep the matter in one court, thus limiting the ability for plea bargaining and dismissal of the child endangerment.
2.  Jan
 Ahh, yet another loop hole. I will continue to work with my local MADD to help close this gap!
3.  Carl McDonald
 That is the main problem. In most areas, two different courts are looking at the same behavior and two different charges are leveled.. That's a recipe for plea bargaining and dismissal of one charge in favor of the other.
Does OVC have access to a list of the drunk driving laws for each state and applicable sections of those laws regarding child endangerment? I am interested in obtaining that information as well as any enhancements to penalties when children are present in vehicles or otherwise endangered by drunk driving. Thanks.
1.  Carl McDonald
 While most states now have some kind of endangerment statute, 43 states currently have statutes that create special sanctions for cases of driving under the influence/driving while intoxicated (DUI/DWI) while the offender is transporting a child at the time of the offense. Child endangerment statutes fall into the following categories: • Enhanced penalties: Penalties that are added to the penalties for a DUI/DWI law violation. • Separate offenses: An offense for DUI/DWI with a minor in the vehicle that is separate from the DUI/DWI laws. • Aggravating circumstances: Laws that allow the fact that a child was in the vehicle to be used by the judge/jury in sentencing as an aggravating factor, but not necessarily mandating a specific enhanced penalty.
Are there trainings available for law enforcement on responding to drunk driving/child endangerment incidents?
1.  Carl McDonald
 Thanks for that reply, Esther.
2.  Esther Larsen
 Drug Endangered Children Alliances in many states offer training for law enforcement regarding responding to incidents where children are at risk due to and/or are endangered by drugs, including, but not limited to alcohol. Drunk driving is included in many states. The National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children has a list of states and other details on training at www.nationaldec.org. In Washington state the website is www.wadecalliance.org
3.  Carl McDonald
 LT, your timing is excellent. MADD is currently making a proposal to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)for funding a renewal of efforts for training in this area.
How has data on children involved in OUI related incidents been collected?
1.  Carl McDonald
 (Continuing) During the five-year period of 1997-2001, 1,985 child passengers died and an estimated 87,226 were injured in alcohol-related crashes. Sixty-eight (68) percent of the deaths and 38 percent of the injuries occurred among children who were riding in the same vehicle with the drinking driver.
2.  Carl McDonald
 There have been two major studies by the Center for Disease Control on this topic: In May 2000, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published “Characteristics of Child Passenger Deaths and Injuries Involving Drinking Drivers.” The study found that from 1985 to 1996, there were 5,555 child passenger deaths involving a drinking driver. Of these deaths, 3,556 (64 percent) occurred while the child was riding with a drinking driver; 67 percent of these drinking drivers were old enough to be the parent or caregiver of the child. (Continued below)
I saw in the bio section that MADD assists with securing grant funding. Do you have a list of funders that have funding opportunities available to cover costs for prevention providers to host regional "Drunk Driving and Child Endangerment" training?
1.  Carl McDonald
 Esther, please see my answer below to LT. In addition, MADD is exploring other sources of funding. Check first with Victims of Crime Act funding sources in your state. We can work with you on other ideas also.
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