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Tennessee Becomes First State to Charge Child Support to Drunk Drivers Who Kill Parents

Drivers who commit vehicular homicide are on the hook until the surviving kids are 18.

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Police close off an area in Nashville, Tennessee.
Police close off an area in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo: Terry Wyatt (Getty Images)

As of January 1, Tennessee became the first state in the U.S. to charge DUI drivers who cause a fatality child support for their victims’ surviving children. It’s a piece of anti-drunk driving legislation being considered across the country.

Ethan, Hailey and Bentley’s Law is named after three children who lost their custodial parents due to a drunk driver. Tennessee’s governor signed the bill into law last spring, but it didn’t take effect until Jan. 1. In 2023, anyone convicted of vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide in the state will be required to pay child support until the victim’s kids are 18.


Similar bills are being considered in multiple states, like Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. In New York and Missouri, killing people with your bad decisions might be just as painful as Tennessee’s law. The bill is supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and comes from tenacious Missouri grandmother Cecilia Williams, who is raising two of her grandchildren after her son, his partner and their 4-month-old baby were killed in a drunk driving crash. From Fox 13:

”She ended up taking custody of all of their children,” said Alex Otte, a regional director with Moms Against Drunk Driving (MADD). “She talks a lot about how grandparents, their children are already raised they don’t expect this expense.”

The law is named after children, including two of a Chattanooga police officer, whose parents were killed by a drunk driver.

”We want people to understand you will be held accountable for this decision, but not only that,” Otte said. “The decision to do so affects so many lives.”


Maybe the long game will finally stop drinkers from getting behind the wheel. So far, jail time, losing licenses and losing tens of thousands of dollars in fees have done little to slow the drunk driving slaughter on our roads. Fatal crashes last year were at a 16-year high and this year isn’t looking much better. AAA recently found that self-reported drunk driving behavior rose 24 percent this year. The problem is so pervasive that there’s even a problem with cops getting DUIs; the Los Angeles Police Department, which had seven officers arrested over the holidays for drunk driving.