A Reuter’s article, quoting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, states that drowsy driving causes over 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries each year in the United States . A WebMD article concludes that drowsy driving is reckless: Judgment and coordination are impaired; reaction time is slower; and aggressiveness is increased .
Despite all the dangers associated with drowsy driving, currently, New Jersey is the only state having legislation to prosecute drowsy drivers. The law is referred to as Maggie’s Law and allows drivers who have gone 24 hours without sleep to be convicted of vehicular homicide. Some other states are attempting to get similar legislation passed, but so far it hasn’t happened.
Laws like this bring attention to the issue of drowsy driving, which is generally known to be a bad idea but not seriously avoided-at least not as seriously as drunk driving. Part of this is obviously due to the difficulty of determining whether or not a person is too tired to drive. How would an officer go about proving that a driver was sleep deprived and that caused an accident? There’s no breath test to determine sleep deprivation. But does this mean the problem should be ignored?
A possible response is that, while there is no definitive way to determine how long it’s been since a person last slept, there are many clues to help make that determination. For example, the driver having an occupation that requires long hours or clues from an accident-such as no skid marks to show the driver attempting to stop before crashing.
These clues could be useful in determining the cause of an accident, but what about the times when people drive drowsy and narrowly avoid an accident. In 2003, the National Sleep Foundation found that more than 50% of drivers surveyed admitted to drowsy driving within the last year . So how can drivers who aren’t in an accident, yet are still too tired to drive-thereby putting themselves and others at risk-be detoured?
This is a difficult question to answer, but it seems clear that more should be done to reduce drowsy driving. One idea is that when officers pull over a car, determining whether the driver is too tired to drive should be just as routine as determining whether the driver is too intoxicated to drive. Drivers need to make a habit of pulling over to rest if they need to rather than risking an accident. Furthermore, the notion of driving, despite being sleep deprived, needs to be seen as unacceptable and illegal.
 Fenton, Reuven. “Drowsy driving is big killer in U.S.” Reuters.com. 02 Nov. 2007. 27 May 2009 http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN3130250920071102?sp=true>.
 Mann, Denise. “Driving Drowsy Could Land You In Jail.” WebMD. 01 Oct. 2003. 27 May 2009 http://www.webmd.com/news/20031001/driving-drowsy>.