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Is drowsy driving as dangerous as DWI?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2023 | Criminal Defense, DWI Defense, Traffic Violations |

Fatigue is a silent killer. It has detrimental effects on our physical and mental health. As much as we want to prevent it, life hands us many stressful and exhausting challenges that we must overcome regardless of our body’s limitations.

While, historically, driving while intoxicated (DWI) has meant a motorist had alcohol in their system, the definition has started to expand recently to include illegal drugs and prescription medication. Can fatigue be far behind?

Many drivers in numerous studies have demonstrated the same slowed reaction times and dulled perceptions as those over the blood alcohol content (BAC) legal limit. They showed that driving after going 24 hours with no sleep was just as dangerous as driving with a BAC of 0.10%.

How does drowsiness affect a driver?

Usually, you start feeling the symptoms of fatigue when you start yawning or your eyes feel heavy. You could be one yawn away from falling asleep. Drowsiness affects the driver by:

  • Impairing your ability to react to unexpected situations on the road: You may not be able to react to sudden stops or pedestrians crossing.
  • Weakening your ability to pay attention to the road: You may accidentally miss your exit or misread traffic signs.
  • Inhibiting your ability to make sound decisions on the road: You may decide to speed up when crossing an intersection wherein the traffic light is about to turn red.
  • Increasing your chances of falling asleep on the road: You may find yourself awake in the hospital bed with no memory of what had just happened.

Based on Maggie’s Law, law enforcement officers can consider fatigued drivers “reckless” based on specific criteria. This means after a serious collision or even a routine traffic stop, fatigued drivers could face devastating legal consequences.

Drowsy driving can lead to criminal charges

The state of New Jersey enacted Maggie’s Law because a driver had fallen asleep at the wheel after 30 hours of no sleep, resulting in a fatal vehicle collision. The court sentenced the driver with criminal charges – vehicular manslaughter.

We cannot control fatigue, it creeps in when we least expect it, hiding beneath coffee and bouts of adrenaline. Fatigue is inevitable when new parents have an infant or when work calls for overtime. One sleepless night of performing your duties should not destroy your entire life.