2018 Child Endangerment Report

Specifically, in fatal crashes, sober drivers had properly restrained their children 30.5 percent of the time, compared with only 18 percent for drinking drivers. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have a primary seat belt law in a state statute, which allows an officer to conduct a traffic stop if he sees someone not wearing a seat belt. A secondary seat belt law permits an officer to write a ticket for a seat belt violation only if there is a traffic stop for another reason. A limitation of much of this research is that it typically looks at only child deaths resulting from impaired driving crashes. Thousands of children survive crashes with injuries, and still more crash data may not report child survivors at all. Additionally, this data does not capture the impaired driving incidents that do not result in a crash or traffic stop. In some cases, officers may not note on incident reports that a child was present in the vehicle of an impaired driver, especially in cases in which another unimpaired driver is present to drive the child home. For example, MADD’s Court Monitoring Program followed 9,552 cases in 2015. Of those cases, one percent were child endangerment cases. However, 51 percent of the 9,552 cases failed to include information on the police report regarding the presence of a child in the car, reflecting the potential prevalence of the lack of reporting by law enforcement nationally. According to the 2008 National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behaviors funded by NHTSA, an estimated 46 to 102 million drunk driving trips are made every year with children younger than 15 in the vehicle, and 1 in 20 (5 percent) of drinking drivers had a least one passenger younger than 15 on their most recent drunk driving trip. 12 Studies conducted in 2014 and 2015 utilizing data collected between 1982 and 2011 by panelists Dr. Romano and Dr. Kelley-Baker, found that an average of 165,000 children were involved in a non-fatal vehicle crash each year. Of those injured, 3,614 (2 percent) each year were riding in the car with a drinking driver. Another 1,800 children (1 percent) each year were not injured but riding in the car with a drinking driver. Their research found that there has been an overall decline in the annual number of fatally injured children from drunk driving crashes between 2001 and 2010; however, non-fatal injury figures stayed relatively consistent. Additionally, relative to all child passengers killed in crashes, the percentage of those who were killed while riding in the same car as the impaired driver remained relatively stable. In regard to child endangerment laws, 29 jurisdictions had them in place in 2002. That number had increased to 42 by 2012. Drs. Romano and Kelley-Baker also found that nearly half of the children fatally injured in drunk driving crashes were age 5 years or younger and that restraint use declined with the child’s age and the BAC level of the driver. Their conclusions aligned with previous studies, finding that compared with sober drivers, drivers who killed a child while drinking and driving (BAC ≥ .08) were more likely to be male, 30-39 years old, driving at night, driving during the weekend, and had a previous DUI. The percentage of female drunk drivers increased during the daytime. 12 National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behaviors: 2008. Volume I: Summary. Volume II: Findings. Volume III: Methodology prepared by Insight Policy Research, Inc. and Gallup, Inc. write to the Office of Behavioral Safety Research, NHTSA, NTI- 130, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, or send a fax to 202-366-7394, or download from www.nhtsa.gov.


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