In a groundbreaking move, Texas has enacted a new law, known as Bentley’s Law, that mandates DUI offenders to pay child support if their actions, such as a car accident due to intoxication, result in the death of a parent. This legislation, which took effect on September 1st, is named in memory of Bentley, a young boy who tragically lost his parents to a drunk driver in Missouri.
The law stipulates that anyone convicted of intoxication manslaughter, which leads to the demise of a parent, is obligated to provide financial support until all surviving children reach the age of 18. This initiative aims to alleviate some of the financial burdens faced by children who are suddenly orphaned due to such tragic circumstances.
Sergeant Erick Estrada, emphasizing the gravity of drunk driving, stated, “The numbers are shocking; on average, we’re losing one person every 7 hours, 17 minutes due to drunk driving.”
Erin Crawford-Bowers, who was orphaned at just six months old due to a drunk driving incident, shared her heart-wrenching story. Recounting the night of June 22, 1985, she said, “My dad went onto the shoulder trying to avoid them, which created more of an impact. We were then hit head-on at full speed going about 70 miles per hour.” Erin’s father died instantly, while her mother, who had unbuckled her seatbelt to shield Erin, suffered severe injuries and was thrown into the windshield. Erin poignantly added, “The day I got married, and I just wanted my father to walk me down the aisle that didn’t happen. The day I had my babies I just wanted my mom by my side, and I didn’t get that in life all because one person made a choice to take that away from me.”
She continues to advocate for stricter DUI laws, emphasizing, “I continue to support this fight for the state of Texas for the greater good because there has to be change. There are so many new victims every single day.”
In addition to Bentley’s Law, Texas has ramped up law enforcement patrols, especially during the Labor Day weekend, to combat drunk driving. This increased vigilance is part of TXDOT’s “Drive Sober. No Regrets” campaign, aiming to reduce the alarming number of DUI-related incidents.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who signed the bill into law on June 2nd, expressed his support for the legislation, emphasizing its significance in holding DUI offenders accountable for their actions.