A New Jersey lawmaker wants tougher penalties for drunken driving when a child is a passenger.
The current penalty is for a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months in jail.
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Shirley Turner would upgrade that to a third-degree crime with a penalty of three to five years in prison for repeat offenders or if a violation results in injury to the child.
“Children are our most precious resource,” said Turner, D-Mercer. “Parents, sometimes when they don’t realize and they have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, they run the risk of injuring their children. So this is basically child abuse.”
Turner said alcoholic don’t consider the consequences of getting behind the wheel with a child in the car.
“They’re liable to be injured,” she said. “And you don’t know that until it actually happens, but we want to make sure that parents or guardians who drive while drinking and have a child in their car, that they think twice about doing it.”
Turner said she hopes increased penalties will deter that behavior.