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Published on Sun, Sep 11, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


Ford Mustang Stamp

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that at least 100,000 crashes and 1,500 deaths are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel each year, according to a report by Jeanne Wright of the Los Angeles Times. The Automobile Club of Southern California estimates that at least a third of all accidents in the USA involve drowsy driving. A poll conducted in 2002 by the National Sleep Foundation in Washington, D.C., found that 100 million motorists - about half of American adult drivers - drive while drowsy, NSF spokeswoman Marcia Stein informed Wright of the Times. Stein told the Times, "Nearly two out of 10 drivers in the poll admitted to actually having fallen asleep behind the wheel." "Fatigued driving is not a new revelation. It has been claiming precious lives for decades," says Rita Monroe of Victims of Irresponsible Drowsy Drivers, a New York nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public and pushing for tough laws on the issue. Monroe's daughter was killed in a 1993 accident, by a driver who was short on sleep. New Jersey has made it a crime to kill someone as a result, according to Wright of the Times. "New Jersey is the only state that has passed legislation directly addressing the hazards of drowsy driving," says Wright. Falling asleep at the wheel can be viewed as reckless driving under the state's existing vehicular homicide statute. The law was passed in honor of Maggie McDonnell, a 20-year-old college student who was killed in 1997 in a head-on collision. The driver of the other vehicle told New Jersey police that he hadn't slept for 30 hours, according to Wright. The New Jersey threshold for fatigue is being deprived of sleep for more than 24 consecutive hours. A motorist who falls asleep at the wheel and kills someone can be charged with vehicular homicide and face up to 10 years in prison and substantial fines. Passage of the New Jersey law led Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York to introduce similar bills, none of which has yet passed, according to the Times. This article comes courtey of our LA Car Blog.

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