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Driving while drowsy as a crime

Driving with inadequate sleep is a major cause of car accidents in Indiana and throughout the nation. Its impact on public health is significant because a fatigued motorist may be as dangerous as a drunk driver, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, states are struggling to find ways to combat this problem.

New Jersey and Arkansas are the only states that may impose criminal penalties for fatigued driving. However, these have proven ineffective.

Arkansas' law took effect in 2013. For a conviction, however, there must be an accident death and proof that the offending driver did not sleep for 24 hours. There were only three convictions from 2013 through 2016.

In New Jersey, conviction requires proof that a motorist missed 16 hours of sleep. This is difficult because drowsy motorists, like alcohol or drug-impaired drivers, receive a shot of adrenaline when they are stopped by police that masks signs of fatigue.

Drafters of these laws must overcome problems with the absence of proof in many accidents. Without a driver's admission after a crash, it is hard to establish factors that objectively establish fatigued driving.

Moreover, one expert says that the public does not view this behavior harshly. Juries would likely treat a fatigued driver less severely than a drunk driver.

According to studies, 17 or more hours without sleep has the same effect as having a blood alcohol content of one percent. A driver is legally impaired with a BAC of at least 0.08 percent.

Driving without a full night's sleep, however, is also dangerous. It lowers alertness and reaction time. The CDC reported that at least two-thirds of adults in this country do not receive the required seven hours of sleep each night.

Motorists, passengers and pedestrians face a heightened risk until Indiana and other states find an answer to this problem. A personal injury attorney can help these accident victims seek compensation and damages for these crashes.

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