MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Columns

December 5, 2009

Don’t let holiday celebration include drinking, driving

Throughout the Christmas and New Year holidays, many Oklahomans will be attending parties and gatherings to share the joy of the season with friends and family. Many of these social activities will include alcohol, which is fine when individuals drink responsibly and have designated drivers, but they can lead to horrible outcomes if not.

Every year, we pass more and more legislation in an effort to deter people from driving drunk. Last session, we passed SB 1138 which amends the definition of child endangerment to include parents or guardians knowingly letting their children ride in vehicles operated by people, including themselves, who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The bill was requested by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which found that 68 percent of the children who died in alcohol-related crashes between 1997 and 2002 were riding with an adult who had a median blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.13. Of those adults involved, 68 percent survived, but the children were killed. Under the new law, which became effective immediately when the governor signed it, any driver over the age of 18 who is found to have a minor in the vehicle while being under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be guilty of child endangerment by DUI. Those convicted will face double the amount of the fine imposed for the underlying DUI violation. Any parent or guardian found under the influence of drugs or alcohol with their child in the car will be guilty of felony child endangerment, which is punishable with up to four years imprisonment, a fine of $5,000 or both.

Every year we try to do all we can to discourage people from driving drunk. The legal trouble a drunk driver faces pales in comparison to the impact one drunk driving accident can have on innocent people. Cars can be fixed, fines can be paid, time and community service can be done, but a life taken in an accident cannot be replaced.

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