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'Bentley's Law' goes into effect in Texas; drunk drivers to pay child support if parent or guardian is killed

Posted at 4:13 PM, Sep 08, 2023

BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — We’re just a few days into the month of September and the State of Texas has implemented more than 700 new laws. One of could affect you as soon as you get behind the wheel.

Pamela Edwards is with the Brazos Valley Injury Prevention Coalition. She lost her son Dillion - a father of two, back in 2014 to a drunk-driving accident.

Now, she hopes new legislation will help deter drivers from increasing deaths on the roadway.

“You can’t imagine that if you’re going to go out and you’re going to drink and end up in a crash and you kill someone who has young kids that they are responsible for, and these kids are left to be orphans with no one to take care of them and this law is where that will take place,” Edwards said.

Known as ‘Bentley's Law,’ House Bill 393 went into effect Sept. 1. Convicted drunk drivers will now have to pay child support if they kill a parent, or guardian of a minor.

Similar laws have already been passed in Tennessee and introduced in others.

After Dillion’s death, it was his family picking up the pieces where they could financially. A real reality she said other families shouldn’t have to go through.

“In my son’s situation, his wife was left with two kids, and she struggled to make ends meet and to figure out how she was going to go ahead in her life. Luckily she had a huge family support that not everyone has,” Edwards said.

According to TxDOT, last year, a person was killed every seven hours and 17 minutes in Texas because of a DUI-alcohol-related traffic crash, resulting in more than 1,200 people losing their lives.

In Brazos County, Pct. 1 Justice of The Peace, Judge Kenny Elliott said with the new law in place, officers are continuing to keep a close eye for these offenders.

“Law enforcement in Brazos County is very proactive on DWI enforcement, they do a great job of getting these drunks off the highways. Hopefully [House Bill 393] will make a difference,” Judge Elliott said.

For Edwards, she believes the first offender will be an example for drivers to think twice about getting behind the wheel after drinking.

“The first case that happens I feel this will set a precedent with it and the courts will make a statement for people to know we are not playing around here – you got to make good choices when you decide to go out and drink,” Edwards said.

Information on House Bill 393 can be found at the Texas Legislature website. A full list of laws that went into effect September 1 also be found at the Texas Legislature website.

Read more about House Bill 393 on 25 News.