Hartford, CT- A Meriden man has finally been charged with a DUI in connection to a traffic accident in late July in which two children were injured. His charges of intoxicated driving and risk of injury to a child corresponds with Child Passenger Safety Week and highlights what MADD considers to be a growing problem in the U.S. and lawmakers in Connecticut and other states should get
Rafly Santiago, 24, was driving on Meriden Ave. around 5 p.m. on July 30 when he veered out of his lane and struck a utility pole. Santiago also happened to have two children in his vehicle, a 4 and 6 year-old, who were in the back seat, NBC Connecticut reported.
Santiago and the two children were both injured and taken to a Hartford Hospital treatment.
Santiago who was driving on a suspended license, tried to give police a false name. Police also suspected that he was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and placed him under arrest, according to NBC Connecticut.
He was later charged with operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, risk of injury to a minor, interfering with a police officer, operating with a suspended license and failure to maintain lane.
Sadly, Santiago is among the thousands of adults who drive drunk with children in their vehicles. According to the Centers for Disease Control, of the 1,210 children killed in traffic accidents in 2010, over 200 were in vehicles being driven by an intoxicated, that’s approximately 20 percent of the traffic fatalities among children.
That is alarming data and has compelled lawmakers in 44 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws which make it a felony offense to drive intoxicated with a child in the vehicle. In these states, a DUI charge that involves child endangerment has enhanced penalties, including up to 4 years in jail and mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices, but Connecticut did not have such a law until it passed the House in June.
In February of this year, Connecticut lawmakers, for the third time, introduced legislation that would mirror New York’s Leandra’s Law. The law was named after Leandra Rosado who was killed in a rollover accident caused by driver who was drunk; six other girls in the vehicle were injured.
The legislation was introduced by Rep. Al Aldofini, but the law had difficulty gaining traction. “We have enough problems with protecting our children in this state and this is one of them that certainly deserves our attention,” said Rep. Adinolfi (R-103), according to NBC Connecticut.
Those who opposed the legislation to toughen Connecticut’s DUI laws say that the “risk of injury to a minor” charge is a felony offense. However, NBC Connecticut pointed out that prosecutors often drop the risk of injury to a minor charge if the driver’s DUI is their first offense and they are eligible for an alcohol treatment.
Now that Connecticut has passed the DUI/ child endangerment law, a person charged with this offense can face up to five years in jail and could be required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.