A new study shows that when it comes to drunk driving crashes, children are far more likely to die when riding with an impaired driver in comparison to being in a vehicle struck by a drunk driver. Using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), researchers from Northwestern University and the Erie Family Health Center in Chicago discovered that nearly two-thirds of kids under 15 who died in an alcohol-related crash were passengers in the car that caused it.
Moreover, the study found that over 60% of these children were not restrained by a seatbelt. In fact, the researchers concluded that the more drunk the driver, the less likely they are to ensure a child is properly buckled up, putting the child at even greater risk for injury or death in a crash. Indeed, in about 70% of the cases, the driver actually survived the crash, suggesting that seatbelts may be a critical factor in the death rate of children in alcohol-involved crashes.
This research may serve to strengthen the trend to increase penalties for drunk drivers who are caught with children in the car. One example is New York’s Leandra’s Law, which makes drunk driving with a child 15 or younger an automatic felony.