Drowsy Driving Causes 100,000 Crashes a Year
Posted on March 2nd, 2016 by Zane Cagle
While most everyone realizes the dangers involved in drinking and driving, drowsy driving is a much grayer situation.
It’s easy to forget that it took a public campaign such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1980 to promote laws to reduce drunk driving. However, driving while drowsy driving is much harder to enforce.
Two States Have Passed Laws
“The burden of proof in drowsy driving cases falls almost totally on police officers“, said Jeff Evans, program manager of the National Sleep Foundation, “Barring a confession from the accused driver, it is very difficult to prove that someone was sleep-deprived.”
New Jersey became the first state to pass drowsy driving legislation in 2003 with “Maggie’s Law” which says that if a driver kills someone after not sleeping for more than 24 hours, the driver can be charged with vehicular homicide.
Arkansas passed a similar law in 2013 that allows the state to charge a driver with “negligent homicide” in a fatal crash if the driver hasn’t slept in 24 hours.
Maggie’s Law is a result of a campaign by Carole McDonnell, whose 20 year-old daughter Maggie was killed in 1997 in a car crash by a van driver who had smoked crack and hadn’t slept in 30 hours. The driver only had to pay a $200 fine because the jury could not consider driver fatigue as a factor of guilt.
New Jersey’s law got more attention in the 2014 truck crash involving comedian Tracy Morgan who was seriously injured on the Jersey Turnpike and another passenger was killed. Under Maggie’s Law, the driver was charged for vehicular homicide for reckless driving.
Experts say that sleep deprivation has sever effects on performance. Staying awake for 18 hours is the equivalent of being legally drunk.
Should More States Create Laws Against Drowsy Driving?
The opinions are mixed on the most effective way to go about reducing fatigued driving for non-commercial drivers. Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association regulations state that commercial drivers can only work so many hours, called hours-of-service and actually log when they drive and rest. Some groups such as the National Sleep Foundation feel that even a small law raises the public consciousness and aides in decreasing fatigued driving.
However, other groups feel a drowsy driving law may be too difficult to enforce as it requires police to investigate and prove lack of sleep.
Increased Awareness from “Designated Driver” to Drowsy Driving
In the 1980’s a Harvard public health professor (Jay Winsten) helped to popular a national “designated driver” campaign to popularize one possible solution for drunk driving crises. The slogan was successful and when Hollywood mobilized to support, it became a social reality in the public consciousness. As well, MADD helped reduce the number of alcohol related crashes dramatically in the 1980’s and 1990’s through avocation of law passage and increased awareness and education. Some say that at the drowsy driving social movement lacks the strong public advocates that drunk driving had as of yet………..
While some groups disagree on whether strict laws or any laws should be developed to address drowsy driving, they all agree that increased awareness and education are enormous influencers on decreasing the amount of car crashes that are results of drowsy driving.
Anti-texting and driving initiatives have been launched over the last few years and while the number of public service announcements and increased awareness has helped, many cities and states adopted their own ban on hand held phones for All drivers, therefore, in many places legislation has been passed to reduce the number of crashes that occur due to “distracted driving“. As well public service announcements promoted by law enforcement, insurance companies and personal injury attorneys like myself have been numerous across the country in the last few years.
Still yet, it is easier to prove that someone was on their smart phone then when they last slept.
If You Are Injured in a Car Crash
If you are involved in a motor vehicle crash and you or the other driver have been up for 24 hours straight, there could be some liability issues even if there are not criminal issues. If you are injured by another driver due to distracted driving, driving under the influence or inattentiveness, you may need an expert motor vehicle accident attorney. No doubt, if you are injured, you should consult a personal injury attorney to be sure that you are able to obtain the maximum compensation that you will need to cover damages such as medical bills, lost wages and other economic and non-economic damages.