Tennessee bill aims to make drunk drivers pay support for victims’ orphaned kids
A bill has been passed in Tennessee that would make it mandatory for convicted drunk drivers to pay for victims’ minor children if they got killed in the crash. Mark Hall, a member of the state House of Representatives, has sponsored the bill and said that if the bill is made into law, it would have “the best chance of success after a tragedy”.
In an interview to The Post, Hall noted: “Needless to say it’s devastating and you’ve got children that have a very limited future without their parents. Not that they can ever be replaced, but this gives them some kind of financial support until they reach the age of 18 so they’re not financially devastated.”
The bill is reportedly first of its kind in the US and now needs Governor Bill Lee’s signature to become a law after which it will reportedly force an intoxicated person guilty of killing a parent/parents in a crash to pay for the victim’s children until they turn 18 or graduate from high school. “A court would determine the amount of the payments, taking into consideration the standard of living the child is used to as well as their financial needs and family situation,” The Post reported.
Hall also shared that Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina are also planning to follow Tennessee’s footsteps in this matter, and have already begun taking notes from him. “It’s an effective tool in combating drunk drivers — I mean, it’s something they actually have to think about when they get behind the wheel intoxicated,” he added.
This bill comes after a Missouri grandmother Cecilia Williams had earlier pitched the idea of Bentley’s law after losing her son, his fiancée, and their kid in a drunk driving accident in 2019. The tragedy also orphaned Williams’ young grandsons Bentley and Mason. The woman’s 30-year-old son Cordell Williams, his fiance, Lacey Newton, 25, and their 4-month-old son, Cordell II, died in a DUI in April two years ago.
A person named David Thurby was reportedly responsible for the crash. He was charged with three counts of DWI death of another along with four misdemeanors, including possession of marijuana and driving in a reckless manner. About her initiative, Williams said, “I believe with all my heart that this is the one thing that’s going to help make people from being a second or third or fourth offender. Because it seems to be a huge problem everywhere.”
She also added: “And I believe it will teach people. I am not knocking the laws. I do believe they’re flawed, however, I believe that just like anybody else when they’re working to change things, there’s only so far they can go. So they do the best that they can and I truly believe people value money more than they do people’s lives. And when you, and I hate to use this term, but when you’re going to hit them where it hurts the most, it will not only help the victim, it’s going to help that person who’s driving under the influence to think, ‘I shouldn’t do this again. Look what my actions caused. I am not doing it for personal gain, I am not doing it for revenge. I am doing it to help other people.”
Reportedly, in Missouri, there is a provision of one-time compensatory payment by DUI offenders to families of victims. Rep Mike Henderson, R-Mo said in November last year, “The idea is to marry Bentley’s law with the statute and create something that would take care of these kids who were orphaned. I want these kids taken care of.”