CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Drivers take major risks if they get behind the wheel while drunk, but a new Tennessee bill could mean even greater financial consequences if the driver kills a parent of a minor.
We spoke with the woman who came up with the idea for the bill, after losing three family members in an accident caused by a drunk driver.
On April 13th, 2021, a drunk driver killed Cecilia Williams's 30-year-old son Cordell, her 25-year-old daughter-in-law to be Lacey, and her four-month-old grandson Cordell II in Missouri.
“They didn't ask for that. They didn't ask to lose their parents," says Williams.
Cordell and Lacey left behind other two children, Lacey and Bentley.
Williams came up with the idea for “Bentley’s Law” that would require a person convicted of killing a parent, as a result of intoxication while driving, to pay child support for the surviving children until they’re 18 and graduated from high school.
“They will always remember, this is what I did to the family, you know, and it will sink into them. I can't do this again. You know, I'm supporting children that aren't mine," says Williams.
Williams says it's called "Bentley's Law", because Bentley is the eldest child.
Chattanooga attorney Jay Kennamer says this bill is a great idea, that is if the money is actually paid.
“Collectability is a very real problem, and predominately the ones that cause the vehicular homicides, most of them don't have the means to pay the damages they cause," says Kennamer.
But, Kennamer says he thinks the bill presents a fair punishment for the offense.
"If you go out and drive drunk and kill someone in a wreck as a result of the intoxication, it's a foreseeable damage, that you've not only affected them, you've affected their whole family," he says.
Cecilia’s cousin, Diane Sutton, lives in Cleveland and decided to bring this bill to Tennessee.
“It's really just a great law, and it should be nationwide," says Sutton.
State Representative Mark Hall sponsored the bill, and on Monday it passed the House unanimously.
“It definitely sends a message that that drunk driving in the state of Tennessee is no longer tolerated," says Hall.
But, Williams is happy that something good is coming out of this loss.
“It's hard, because I would I would love to have them here, but them three really are making a difference in other people's lives," she says.
She's also thankful for those helping this bill make its way into other states.
"I want to thank Mark Hall, and all the co sponsors of the bill, and I want to thank Diane Sutton for doing such an amazing job at helping get Bentley's Law in Tennessee," Williams says.