DROWSY DRIVING

On the internet, an article was written at http://new.msn.com about a widow of a New York police officer who was killed when a suspected drowsy driver plowed into his parked cruiser in 2011. The article points out that most drivers have experienced drowsy driving after working late or overtime or being up with young or a sick person. Their eyes began to flutter and you rest your eyes for a split second as you drive. More than 11,000 deaths were attributed to drowsy driving from 2000 to 2010 according to federal statistics. Experts claim it is a problem that can’t be solved by new laws because proving sleepiness behind the wheel is difficult if not impossible!

It can be easily determined how much alcohol is in a driver’s blood or whether someone has used illegal drugs or even if someone has been texting while driving, but quantifying drowsy driving cannot be done unless a driver admits to being drowsy or in the case of bus drivers, their driving log indicates excessive hours of driving.

In the 2011 Bronx bus crash that killed 15 people, the driver was acquitted of manslaughter and negligent homicide. The jury rejected the prosecutors argument that the driver was so sleep deprived from working another job that it affected his reflexes as much as if he was intoxicated. This verdict influenced the Long Island prosecutors’ decision to drop negligent homicide charges against the truck driver that killed New York City police officer in his parked vehicle. According to Nassau County Vehicular Crime Bureau to obtain a conviction you have to prove “serious blame worthiness, moral blame worthiness or dangerous speeding”, a standard which is impossible to meet.

New Jersey is the only state that has successfully passed legislation addressing drowsy driving under “Maggie’s Law”. However, prosecutors must show that a driver had been awake for 24 hours to prove possible recklessness. A Massachusetts State Senator, Richard Moore considered legislation after a constituent’s son was killed in a 2002 drowsy driver accident but Moore said “It’s not as easy as drunken driving; there’s not a good deal of research”. Massachusetts tried to educate the public by including early warning tips in drivers’ manuals and to add rumble strips that warn drivers when they are drifting off the road, like New York has done.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says sleep is the best cure but drinking two cups of coffee followed by a 15 – 20 nap can refresh some drivers for a short period of time. Things like turning up the radio volume, singing loudly, chewing gun or eating or getting out of the car and running around are not effective. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says “you can’t legislate against sleepiness” and focuses on public education campaigns and issuing brochures advising of the dangers. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a study this year that found 4% of U.S. adults nodded off or fell asleep at least once while driving in the previous month.

If you, or someone you know, have been involved in an accident where you suspect drowsy driving was the cause, call the office of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800.