Bill to Make Drunk Drivers Pay Child Support

Glass of whiskey and car keys | Image by Damian Koziel/Shutterstock

Texas lawmakers are currently debating “Bentley’s Law,” which would require drunk drivers who kill a child’s parent to pay child support to the family.

House Bill 393, filed by Texas Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), would be applied to impaired drivers who kill the parent of a minor. The payments would begin one year after the defendant is released from prison and would continue until all of the victim’s surviving children turn 18 or graduate high school, depending on which occurs last.

Frank Harris, the director of state government affairs for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, explained to Fox 7 Austin that payment amounts will be determined by “applying the current child support framework that is utilized in child custody cases to impaired drivers who kill somebody.”

The bill was modeled after a failed bill in Missouri that drew national attention to the issue. The initiative has now gained bipartisan support, and 12 states including Texas and Oklahoma are currently considering passing the law after Tennessee became the first in 2022.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving believes the law has the potential to support many grandparents who must suddenly become parents to their grandchildren. The group also believes it could deter people from driving while drunk.

“Often we see many grandparents that are in a position now to raise the children considering that, due to a DWI crash, the parents are no longer with us. And this [law] would be able to better support the grandparents that are now in the unexpected position to raise that child,” said Tess Rowland, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, per KXAN.

“We ultimately hope that this will make people think twice, because drunk driving is a choice, and it is 100% preventable. These crashes never have to happen,” Rowland told KXAN.

Skylar Arner, 11, who lost her mother to a drunk driver three years ago, has voiced her support for the bill. The Leander, Texas, resident said she misses her family, but this bill could remind the driver of what they did to her family.

“Just waking up every day knowing nobody’s there to say ‘good morning, goodnight’,” said Arner, per Fox 7 Austin. “Every time that money comes out of their paycheck, it’ll remind them, ‘I took somebody’s parent.'”

The Texas Department of Transportation reports that one person dies from a DUI-alcohol-related crash every seven hours and 43 minutes, on average. Alcohol-related crashes in Texas claimed 1,134 lives in 2021 and caused 2,565 injuries that were considered serious.

“The loss of life on our highways is tragic,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams in a press release. “It is all the more tragic to know that the vast majority of these lives lost could [have been] prevented.

“Our message to students is this: Help keep yourself and others safe by finding a sober ride, taking a cab, using a rideshare, or simply staying put. There are severe and deadly consequences to drunk driving, and we don’t want to see lives and futures destroyed,” Williams added.

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  1. Cynthia

    If that’s the case all killers should pay child support. Police included.

    • scrmd

      Only if convicted for the killing. Self defense and law enforcement justified by investigation could not be included.

  2. Soapboxmom

    Payments should continue until the children who lost a parent complete college or turn 25. Most families help their kids well until their twenties.

    • Jimmy Arnett

      I agree. If a child was 10 and the driver served 5 years, the payment would start when the child was 16 and that would only be 2 years of payments.


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