Why is Drowsy Driving Worse Than Drunk Driving?

Drowsy driving is a danger that can prove to be as fatal and negligent as drunk driving. However, drowsy driving in Pennsylvania can also prove to be a far more insidious issue because it is nearly impossible to prove that a driver was asleep if the drowsy driver causes an accident. This often means little justice for families of victims killed by drowsy drivers.

From 2000 to 2010, it is estimated that around 11,000 motor vehicle deaths were caused by a drowsy drivers. Particularly for drivers of passenger vehicles, it is incredibly difficult to prosecute a driver for falling asleep. A mother of three that lost her husband two years ago when he was killed by a drowsy driver says of the car accident, “The pain we experience is beyond description and continues to be.”

The driver that killed the woman’s husband pleaded guilty to just a misdemeanor reckless driving charge. This woman has to raise three sons without their father, and the negligent driver only had to pay $500.

The sense of injustice following some fatal car accidents can make families feel the loss more profoundly. Many will attempt to find that justice through civil proceedings that could hold negligent drivers liable for finically compensating a victim’s family.

A National Transportation Safety Board member emphasizes that drowsy driving is just as dangerous and negligent as drunk driving, but he says that the low level of public awareness regarding drowsy driving leads many to regularly engage in such behavior.

New Jersey is currently the only state that has any legislation to address drowsy driving accidents. While even under that law it is difficult to prove a driver was recklessly fatigued, such legislation could be a step in the right direction to more states adopting such laws, and public safety thereby increasing.

Source: Associated Press, “Drowsy driving remains an elusive highway dilemma,” Frank Eltman, May 11, 2013

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