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Overly Tired Drivers Can be as Dangerous as Drunk Drivers

As if there isn't already enough to worry about while driving on New Jersey's busy and congested roads, consider the following, as related by writers Jon Hilkevitch and Serena Maria Daniels in the Los Angeles Times. They note that, "If that driver in the next car isn't speeding, intoxicated or distracted by texting or talking on the phone, there's a good chance he or she is barely awake."

If we assume that New Jersey drivers are similar to motorists in other states, then we can also assume that 27 percent of them have been so tired at some point while driving within the past year that they could hardly keep their eyes open.

Talk about an increased chance of a car accident. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that more than 40 percent of American drivers have actually nodded off or fallen asleep outright while driving and that nearly 17 percent of fatal crashes across the country involve drowsy drivers.

Despite that always present danger on the road, though, only one state in the country has a law that addresses sleep-deprived drivers and punishes them if that condition results in a motor vehicle fatality: New Jersey.

In New Jersey, sleep deprivation in the context of driving is defined as 24 hours without sleep. If a driver is so defined and is involved in a fatal car accident, he or she can be charged with vehicular homicide.

Tricks for keeping awake really don't work, according to AAA. If you're tired, you're tired, and an accurate diagnosis of that condition becomes less likely the longer you are awake and driving. There is only prescription for safety where fatigue is involved: Get off the road and sleep.

Related Resource: "Driving while drowsy: A 'silent killer' on the roads" November 9, 2010

1 Comment

It is not clear to me how the state would ever prove that a person has not slept in 24 hours unless the person admits it. If the person claims they slept 30 minutes then that would not be criminal? New Jersey is ahead of the curve on this very important public safety issue.

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