Several factors put a child at risk for serious bodily injury or death when in a vehicle with a drunk driver. The most obvious is that the drink driver cannot safely operate a vehicle. Not so obvious, however, is the fact that many impaired parents or guardians fail to secure their children in appropriate safety restraints before getting behind the wheel.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving believes that every child deserves a sober driver. Lawmakers in 47 states, including Pennsylvania, agree. In Pennsylvania, an impaired driver may receive enhanced charges and penalties for driving drunk with a minor in the vehicle. Moreover, prosecutors may charge the offender with child endangerment as well, if it is so inclined.
Between 2000 and 2009, nearly 2,500 children under 15 years of age lost their lives as the result of being passengers in the vehicles driven by impaired persons. One in five deaths of child passengers are the result of drink drivers who, 64% of the time, were passengers in the vehicle with the drunk driver.
In terms of safety restraints, statistics show that fatal crashes involving children who were passengers in vehicles driven by sober drivers had their safety restraints on 30.5% of the time. However, when the driver was impaired, the rate lowered to just 18%.
Pennsylvania takes child endangerment drunk driving offenses very seriously. According to Chapter 38 of the Pennsylvania state code, a person who is guilty of a first-time offense will receive a fine of not less than $1,000 and have to participate in at least 100 hours of community service. A second conviction of a similar nature will result in a fine of not less than $2,500 and a term of imprisonment between one and six months. A third conviction will result in not less than six months but not more than two years in jail.