Could New Jersey DWI Laws Soon Apply to Drowsy Driving?

It sure doesn’t sound like drunk driving, but I bet this has happened to you or someone you know. You’re driving home a bit tired after working a double shift in Jersey City, or trying to squeeze in that last 50 miles returning from a very full weekend in Atlantic City. Just trying to stay awake long enough to get home, park the car and climb into bed. That’s not the same as driving while intoxicated, or is it?

Whether it’s a paperwork backlog at work, working the graveyard shift at a second job, or spending a sleepless night tending to a sick child, the result is the same. Operating a vehicle when you’ve had little or no sleep can be a recipe for disaster. Nodding off on the Garden State Parkway can have a deadly outcome.

And the consequences can be serious, especially here in New Jersey. We live in the only state in the Union that makes drowsy driving a crime when it’s found to be the cause of a fatal crash — classified as recklessness under the state’s vehicular homicide statute. And it’s not unreasonable that drowsy driving could one day become as serious an offense as DWI.

It may be a long ways off, but legislators and sleep experts across the country are starting to look at drowsy driving as nearly equivalent to drunk driving. Like New Jersey, other states are trying to add drowsy driving laws to their books, spurred by the large number of traffic fatalities caused by drowsy drivers every year.

Drowsy driving is one of the most vexing problems involving traffic safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it is a factor in more than 100,000 crashes, resulting in 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries annually around the country – and that may even be a conservative estimate. Many experts say the nation’s progress against drowsy driving is about where the campaign against drunken driving was 30 years ago.

As skilled New Jersey DWI attorneys, my office has dealt with hundreds of drunk driving and related cases. If you or a family member have been arrested due to an injury accident involving alcohol, prescription drug DUI or drowsy driving, we highly recommend that you contact a qualified defense lawyer like the ones at The Law Offices of John F. Marshall.

 

Wake-up call: Drowsy drivers are serious threat, MyCentralJersey.com, April 14, 2009