The Dangers of Drowsy Driving and New Jersey Law

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that one in every six fatal car accidents results from a fatigued driver. This statistic shows why New Jersey's law that criminalizes drowsy driving is necessary to combat the problem of over-tired drivers.

In a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 41 percent of the drivers surveyed admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel. Also, more than a quarter of the drivers reported that within the last month they drove despite being so tired that they had trouble keeping their eyes open.

Drowsy Driving Dangers

Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation said, "Just like alcohol or drugs, sleepiness slows reaction time and impairs judgment." According to News21 and the Center for Public Integrity, studies show that someone who has been without sleep for 24 hours performs at the same level as someone with a 0.10 percent blood-alcohol concentration, which is over the threshold for legal intoxication in New Jersey.

In addition, Thomas Balkin, a sleep researcher and chairman of the National Sleep Foundation, emphasized that fatigue-related auto accidents are more likely to be severe because people who have fallen asleep at the wheel do not do anything to mitigate the crash, such as hit the brakes or steer away from a collision.

New Jersey's Fatigued-Driving Law

In 2003, New Jersey enacted a law called Maggie's Law that states that any driver who causes a fatality while knowingly fatigued may be prosecuted for vehicular homicide. According to the law, a driver is knowingly fatigued when he or she has been awake for more than 24 hours or if there is proof that the person fell asleep while driving. The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

New Jersey's fatigued-driving law is named after a 20-year-old woman who was killed by a sleeping driver. While asleep, the driver veered across three lanes of traffic and hit her car. The driver told police that he had not slept for 30 hours. He ultimately was cited for reckless driving and fined $200 - the maximum penalty at the time.

Fatigued driving is a serious danger that causes thousands of injuries and deaths every year. New Jersey's drowsy-driving law helps fight the problem, but drivers also must choose not to drive when they are over-tired in order to prevent tragic car accidents.