Does drowsy driving legislation deserve consideration?

Our bodies require sound sleep on a habitual basis. A poor’s night sleep can lead to more than poor performance at work. As a worst-case scenario, we may contribute to the statistics that measure the impact of drowsy driving.

While federal and state governments and agencies have assessed its causes and, few have proposed, much less enacted, legislation criminalizing the act. With civil courts able to tackle the issue through personal injury lawsuits, the argument can also be made for legislation addressing the negligent act as well through the criminal system.

Statistics could support action beyond funding and recommendations

The late-shift worker, the exasperated spouse or frustrated teenager all have explanations for drowsy driving. Their reasons comprise the 91,000 police-reported crashes involving drowsy drivers in 2017. The estimates include 50,000 people injured and nearly 800 deaths. These crashes often involve only a driver and occur more often between Midnight and 6 a.m. on rural roads.

Recommendations for addressing the issue abound. They include driving at non-peak hours, getting a good night’s sleep before a long trip, avoiding alcohol before driving, and ensuring medications do not induce drowsiness. Short-term solutions, from drinking coffee or energy drinks—micro sleeps can occur—, to pulling over for a nap, merely plug the dam.

Legislation could help with drowsy driving

Maryland has received funding for advanced training and skill development from the same organization, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, that equates 24 hours without sleep to a blood alcohol content level of .08. If true, one might consider whether to supplement education and awareness with deterrence by prosecution. Laws proscribe numerous actions based on recklessness and negligence, even attaching criminal consequences to some. One state has enacted this specific rationale; a second classifies it as a negligent homicide.

Crash reconstruction and investigations review the totality of evidence. They determine each factor’s significance regarding the circumstances of the accident. Drowsy driving legislation could increase public safety by spotlighting the importance of sleep for driving safety.

Regardless, drowsy driving can be negligent – and if it leads to an accident, it may be possible for those injured to successfully seek compensation. An attorney with experience in car accidents could provide important guidance in this area.

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