In 2004, MADD victim advocates identified several common problems frequently raised by victims: • Cases are not being properly charged, resulting in lack of prosecution. • Cases that are charged are often plea-bargained down or dismissed. • Reports made to child protective service agencies are not being documented or investigated. • A general lack of awareness of the seriousness of the problem. • Divorced parents confronted with the problem of an ex-spouse who drives while impaired face legal challenges and risk subjecting themselves to civil contempt actions if they refuse visitation privileges to protect their children. • Many victims do not have the financial resources to seek relief in the civil court system. Unfortunately, a review of MADD victim advocate reports over the past decade reveals that minimal progress has been made to address these systemic issues. Within each state, it is the legislature that determines the structure of child endangerment laws. Statutes of this nature are important because motor vehicle crashes continue to outrank all other injuries and diseases as the major cause of death for children ages 1 and above. 6 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,469 people under the age of 15 were killed as passengers in the vehicle of a drunk driver from 2000 to 2009. The CDC found that one in five deaths of child passengers are caused by drunk drivers, and most often (64 percent of time), they are passengers in the impaired driver’s vehicle. The CDC study found a correlation between there being no laws on impaired-driving child endangerment and higher rates of child passenger deaths in impairment-related crashes. For children, being killed in a crash in which their own driver was impaired ranks as the sixth leading overall cause of death. According to the most recent data from NHTSA, 214 children were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2016. Fifty-four percent were passengers of vehicles with alcohol- impaired drivers, and 46 percent of these children were unrestrained. 7 A child in a vehicle with a drinking driver is not only at risk from the impaired driver, but also from the lack of proper age-appropriate restraint use (a seat belt or child safety seat), since drinking drivers are much less likely to make sure a child is properly restrained.
6 National Vital Statistics System 7“ Traffic Facts Sheet 2016 Data: Children, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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