New Drunk Driving Law Takes Effect

Texas Capitol Building
Texas Capitol Building | Image by Ricardo Garza/Shutterstock

A new law requiring drunk drivers to pay child support to the children of victims they happen to kill went into effect on Friday.

HB 393, also called “Bentley’s Law,” was named after a young child who lost his parents to a drunk driver in Missouri.

The law states that those convicted of committing manslaughter while driving intoxicated will be required to “pay restitution for a child whose parent or guardian was the victim of the offense.”

Those convicted will be ordered to make monthly payments to the surviving child until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. For defendants unable to make payments while incarcerated, the law requires them to start making payments one year after being released from prison.

The amount the convicted drunk driver will be required to pay will be based on “the financial needs and resources of the child” and “the financial needs and resources of the surviving parent or guardian.”

“I hope [the law] deters people from drinking and driving because this is a 100% preventable crime,” said Jacqueline Shaw, a victim support specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, according to KXAN Austin.

Shaw said she has worked with victims of drunk driving accidents and hopes the new law “will help them through the hard time.”

“To see them go through this, losing a family member and having to go through the criminal justice process. Then, on top of the financial strain, it is a lot because there’s not a lot of resources out there,” said Shaw, per KXAN.

Erin Crawford-Bowers lost her parents to a drunk driver in 1985 when she was just six months old, according to KTXS ABC 12.

Crawford-Bowers said there is “never a blissful day because you always remember the people who weren’t able to be there.”

“I continue to support this fight for the state of Texas for the greater good because there has to be change. There are so many new victims every single day,” she said, per KTXS.

The Texas Department of Transportation reported 1,162 deaths due to drunk driving in 2022, which accounted for more than one-quarter of all driving deaths.

Marie Briner of the Briner Family Law Group said that although the new bill is a good first step in preventing drunk driving, it is “probably gonna take some time to kind of work out some of the kinks,” reported CBS News Texas.

“If we got situations where somebody could go to prison for 20 years or more, which could easily happen, then it’s really not satisfying that intention,” she added.

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