MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new bill in Tennessee aims to cut down on drinking and driving by making offenders pay.
“House Bill 1834 is very simple and straightforward," said Rep. Mark Hall on the House floor.
It's also known as Bentley's Law. It was inspired by a woman in Missouri, whose grandson, Bentley, lost both parents in a drunk driving crash.
Under Bentley's Law, if a parent of a minor child dies at the hands of a drunk driver, the convicted drunk driver is then responsible for child support.
“I wish we'd had thought of it years ago," said Rep. William Lamberth.
“That's a very creative bill," said Rep. Antonio Parkinson. "It's a good bill and, I'm signing on to it."
The passed unanimously in the Tennessee Senate and House.
For mothers like Tanya Read, it's a sign of progress, and still, a reminder of her own pain.
“As a victim myself, it gave me some peace to see that impaired driving wrecks are being taken seriously," said Read.
Read’s son, Nick, was killed by a drunk driver the night before his high school graduation.
“It'll be seven years this May, and I still see the effects,” said Read. “There's always going to be an empty chair at our house."
Impaired driving is a growing problem. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, in 2020 there were 5,918 reported DUI crashes. In 2021, that number grew to 6,047.
“We all know that driving impaired is dangerous,” said Read. “Sometimes you have to hit people in their pocket to get the point across."
Shortly after her son's death, Read became a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and an advocate for more laws that could prevent these tragedies.
"It is another hopeful deterrent,” said Read. “Another reason for people to think twice."
Under this new bill, the child support payments would continue until the victim's children are 18 and graduate from high school.
If the person convicted is in jail, those payments will start one year after they're released.
To become law, all the bill needs is Gov. Bill Lee's signature.