We all know that drunk driving is responsible for many otherwise preventable car accidents. But maybe you don’t realize how frequently accidents are caused by drivers simply falling asleep at the wheel. According to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, about one in ten drivers admitted snoozing at the wheel just this past year. A whopping 41% say they have fallen asleep at one time or another during their entire driving careers.
According to estimates based on studies done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in six deadly car crashes is directly attributable to a tired, drowsy or sleeping driver. Compared to the huge number caused by drunk drivers, about one in three of all fatal car crashes, sleeping at the wheel might not seem so bad. But if you translate that into numbers of people, then that comes out to about 6,000 or so individuals who lost their lives last year due to driving while fatigue-impaired.
New Jersey is the only state at the moment that is trying to do something serious about this frightening statistic. Known as the ‘Maggie Law’ after a twenty year old woman who was killed by somebody asleep at the wheel, this law stipulates that any driver that causes a fatality after 24 or more hours without sleep can be charged with vehicular homicide, just like a drunk driver.
In order for this law to succeed New Jersey, and other states contemplating the passage of equivalent laws will need to develop a scientific way of elucidating if the driver indeed is sleep deprived- a sleep detecting version of the breathalyzer that police use to ascertain whether someone is drunk of not. If such a device is developed and more laws like the Maggie Law of New Jersey can be passed, we will be way on our way to helping to end the carnage taking place every day on our roads and highways.