Two lawmakers in New York are working on two very similar bills that would make drunk drivers responsible for child support payments if they happen to kill a custodial parent in the process of committing the crime.
New York is the second state to consider putting child support payments on drunk drivers who kill a custodial parent. Tennessee already signed a similar bill into law earlier this year. News of the Tennessee law inspired New York state assembly member Andrew Gounardes to put forward his own law, similar to the one from fellow assembly member Demond Meeks’ law. From Streetsblog:
“If you drive recklessly, you are going to be held accountable,” said Gounardes of his bill, which matches one by Assembly Member Demond Meeks (D-Rochester). “There is so little accountability for drivers who kill and lack of financial compensation, so this sends a clear message: if you kill a parent, you are going to have to literally pay for it.”
“I saw the article and thought, ‘Wow that’s a really smart idea,’” Gounardes said. “It seems like a novel way to send a message that you are responsible for your actions behind the wheel. There’s a chance that a reckless 19-year-old driver who thinks it’s OK to speed would think again if they know they’re going to be responsible for 20 years of child support. This is about educating people about their responsibilities.”
Payments would continue until the child is 18 years old. The law would effect drivers convicted of first or second degree vehicular manslaughter or aggravated vehicular homicide. Not many people get convicted of such charges in New York, StreetBlog reports:
Though there is plenty of intoxicated driving going on, last year in all of New York State, only 34 drivers were convicted of one of the three charges that would trigger custody payments, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services — but it’s unclear how many drivers, if any, orphaned a minor. In New York City, only five drivers were found guilty of one of the three charges.
Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania all have their own version of the bill moving through their legislatures. Just in time too. Every day 32 people die due to drunk driving crashes, according to NHTSA. But all traffic fatalities are up—at least 43,000 Americans died in 2021 on our roads.
Ideally, we’d like to see this legislation expanded to include cases where non-DUI reckless driving leads to a fatality (something NY assembly member Meeks hopes to do), but, baby steps.