Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) projects that this year, 10,839 people will die in drunk-driving crashes – that's approximately one every 50 minutes. As a personal injury lawyer, I regularly see the injuries and deaths caused by drunk driving accidents. Nationwide in 2009, of the 1,314 children ages 14 and younger who were killed in traffic accidents, 181 were killed in drunken driving related crashes. Half of those deaths were children who were passengers in a vehicle with a driver who had a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Car accidents are bad enough, they are generally much worse when the driver has been drinking.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate there were 700 traffic fatalities in Mississippi in 2009; of those, 97 killed were under the age of 20. A large portion of those accidents have been attributed to drunken driving, with 234 decedents having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent (the legal limit in Mississippi) or higher. 169 of those were operating vehicles at the time of their death. Like any other major metropolitan area, Jackson, Mississippi is not immune to the problem.
Mississippi state laws have primarily focused on the driver, but there are hopes that a new bill would allot some attention to the children who often have no choice but to ride in vehicles with negligently intoxicated caregivers. Mississippi is currently among the minority of states that lack some version of a DUI child endangerment law.
Representative Greg Snowden, who has made the push for the bill for the last two years, believes stiffer penalties for second offenders will deter similar occurrences by requiring the driver to be put on house arrest or ordered into outpatient treatment at an alcohol or drug rehabilitation center. In a statement to the Associated Press, Snowden said the bill would mirror the current DUI law and make drunk driving with a child in the car a felony on the third offense, granted there is no serious injury to the child. Like the regular DUI law, however, if there is a major injury the offense will be relegated to a felony - even if the driver is a first-time offender.
While similar bills failed in 2010 and there is currently no bill pending in the 2011 session to expand the law, an increasing number of residents are acknowledging the need for such legislation, and becoming more vocal about their support.
The Mississippi auto accident attorneys at The Katz Law Firm represent persons who have been injured in motor or truck accidents around Jackson and Mississippi.