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What should the punishment be for drowsy driving?





Afaceinthematrix
The following statistics are for the U.S. I'm sure you could easily find them for any country that you want. The point will remain the same.

- 1,500 people die each year because of someone falling asleep at the wheel.
- 40,000 get injured every year because of drowsy driving
- 100,000 highway crashes happen each year because of drowsy driving


The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is .08. Someone who has been up for 24 hours or more will have to driving ability of someone with a BAC of .1 - well above the legal limit.

Only eight U.S. states (Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee) have laws against drowsy sleeping. What about the other 42 states?

What should the punishment be? It's reckless endangerment, at the least. It's definitely involuntary manslaughter. Should the punishment be the same as a DUI (since it can be related to someone with a BAC of .1)?
deanhills
How would one measure "drowsy"? And how "culpable" would it be proven to be, if the person does not admit to it? I'm almost certain once it gets legislated that the stats mentioned in your posting will show a dramatic decrease?
ocalhoun
Afaceinthematrix wrote:

Only eight U.S. states (Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee) have laws against drowsy sleeping. What about the other 42 states?

In the other states, driving half-asleep counts as a DUI.
In this case, the punishment for drinking and driving is exactly the same as the punishment for sleepy driving.

deanhills wrote:
How would one measure "drowsy"? And how "culpable" would it be proven to be, if the person does not admit to it?

Thanks to a little quirk of biology, this isn't a problem.
When you're extremely tired, your body produces chemicals that will register on a breathalyzer, just like alcohol will: an extremely sleepy person will register above the legal limit, despite having consumed no alcohol. Not only can sleepy drivers share the punishment of drunk drivers, they share the same test as well!
deanhills
ocalhoun wrote:
Afaceinthematrix wrote:

Only eight U.S. states (Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee) have laws against drowsy sleeping. What about the other 42 states?

In the other states, driving half-asleep counts as a DUI.
In this case, the punishment for drinking and driving is exactly the same as the punishment for sleepy driving.

deanhills wrote:
How would one measure "drowsy"? And how "culpable" would it be proven to be, if the person does not admit to it?

Thanks to a little quirk of biology, this isn't a problem.
When you're extremely tired, your body produces chemicals that will register on a breathalyzer, just like alcohol will: an extremely sleepy person will register above the legal limit, despite having consumed no alcohol. Not only can sleepy drivers share the punishment of drunk drivers, they share the same test as well!
Wow! Now I'm learning something. So one can "in effect" be drunk with drowsiness!!!! Very interesting! OK so my response to Matrix's question would be that the punishment should be the same as for drunken driving. There seems to be a good test for it, and it would have the exact same affect of the driver being responsible for impaired driving.
saratdear
I was about to ask the same thing - how would you measure "drowsy"; but then ocalhoun has already posted how to go about it. But then, if you were going to be pulled over for drowsy driving, wouldn't you try be awake at once? (I suppose the idea of getting fined would drive away your sleep...) Would that test still work, then?
Jinx
I've never heard that being drowsy will register on a breathalizer, and as I drive for a living that seems like something I would have run across... If you could provide a source I'd be much obliged.

For commercial truck drivers, we have all sorts of regulations against driving while fatigued, including Hours of Service regulations that dictate how many hours we can drive before being required to take a break. We can drive, or be on duty, or a combination of driving and on duty time for no more than 11 hours before we are required to cease driving, and cannot drive again until we have taken a 10 hour break.

Even if we're in compliance with these HOS rules, a DOT officer or police officer can put a driver out-of-service at his or her discretion if they believe the driver to be fatigued. It's something they take very seriously.

A large number of accidents have been caused by truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel - we tend to work under a lot of pressure to deliver on time. But when hauling 40 tons, and being so much larger than anything around you on the highway, you need your reactions in tip top shape - even a little mistake could have catastrophic consequences.

PS - for CDL holders, the legal blood alcohol level is only .02 ppm, rather than the usual .08.

PPS - as for the punishment... I thnk somwone guilty of drowsy driving should have their eyes wired open a la Clockwork Orange and be forced to listen to polka music while watching films of horrible car crashes.
There's no excuse for not getting enough rest before driving.
ocalhoun
Jinx wrote:
I've never heard that being drowsy will register on a breathalizer, and as I drive for a living that seems like something I would have run across... If you could provide a source I'd be much obliged.

I heard it during a DUI warning brief... perhaps not the best of sources, but why would they lie about that?
saratdear wrote:
I was about to ask the same thing - how would you measure "drowsy"; but then ocalhoun has already posted how to go about it. But then, if you were going to be pulled over for drowsy driving, wouldn't you try be awake at once? (I suppose the idea of getting fined would drive away your sleep...) Would that test still work, then?

I'm sure the chemicals would still be there residually... You couldn't suddenly become alert and awake any more than a drunk driver could suddenly become sober when pulled over.
missdixy
Cool, I live in a state that has a law against it! Really, though, I agree with the question proposed earlier -- how would you measure drowsiness? I know Ocalhaun provided an answer, but I spent about 25 minutes just now on google trying to find something on this and couldn't find much. There was one article that mentioned "monitoring eye and eyelid movements by infrared reflectance oculography to measure drowsiness in drivers" which is a pretty interesting idea but (since I only read the abstract and not the paper) am not sure if this is something that could be easily implemented into our highway patrols etc.

Anyway, I agree that yes, drowsy drivers are a hazard to the roads but so are other things like (some) teenage drivers, senior citizens, driving with a splitting headache/migraine, driving while really upset, etc. It's hard to control for a lot of these things.
jabce85
That's a tough question..... and how exactly can you test to see if someone is drowsy..... getting pulled over would surely stimulate their adrenaline at least a little bit, thus making them appear awake.
Afaceinthematrix
You know ("you" being directed at almost every person who has responded with the same question, "How would you measure drowsiness?"), a breathalyzer will semi-accurately measure the blood alcohol concentration of an individual but you don't need one to be able to tell if someone is not sober enough to drive. All you have to do is make someone walk in a straight line, recite the alphabet backwards, etc. Hell, you can even talk to them most of the time. There are many tests that are used to see coordination skills and see if a driver is coordinated enough to drive at the moment. If someone is unable to drive safely because of their level of drowsiness, it will be fairly easy to see.

There are also different brain functions that happen in your brain while you are tired. You can always be taken down to the police station to be tested if you're tired, or not... if you make it without falling asleep in the back of the police car.

But I do not think the latter is too important. The most important part is a simple coordination test. Because even if you are tired, if you're perfectly coordinated then you're most likely a safe driver anyways. You can be tired and still be a safe driver. Most people are tired on their drive home from work after a long day. It's when you're exhausted that you start losing coordination and become a piss-poor driver and a danger to people on the road...
missdixy
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
There are also different brain functions that happen in your brain while you are tired. You can always be taken down to the police station to be tested if you're tired, or not... if you make it without falling asleep in the back of the police car.


I don't know how well this method would work. For one, I'm sure some lawyer somewhere defending someone in this case would argue that the car ride to the police station (where the person actually got to just sit in a car and ride it instead of focusing on driving it) made the person more relaxed and more tired and thus any test conducted at the police station could not prove that the person was tired/drowsy while they were driving earlier etc.

Also, being pulled over etc. may definitely cause someone to get freaked out and have an adrenaline rush which may cause them to pause coordination tests that they otherwise wouldn't have? Just another thought.
deanhills
missdixy wrote:
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
There are also different brain functions that happen in your brain while you are tired. You can always be taken down to the police station to be tested if you're tired, or not... if you make it without falling asleep in the back of the police car.


I don't know how well this method would work. For one, I'm sure some lawyer somewhere defending someone in this case would argue that the car ride to the police station (where the person actually got to just sit in a car and ride it instead of focusing on driving it) made the person more relaxed and more tired and thus any test conducted at the police station could not prove that the person was tired/drowsy while they were driving earlier etc.

Also, being pulled over etc. may definitely cause someone to get freaked out and have an adrenaline rush which may cause them to pause coordination tests that they otherwise wouldn't have? Just another thought.
Good thoughts! Hope you are considering a career as a lawyer. Smile

Think Ocalhoun gave the best answer. There seems to be a test that is already being used that is identical to a breathalizer for alcohol:
Ocalhoun wrote:
In the other states, driving half-asleep counts as a DUI.
In this case, the punishment for drinking and driving is exactly the same as the punishment for sleepy driving.

When you're extremely tired, your body produces chemicals that will register on a breathalyzer, just like alcohol will: an extremely sleepy person will register above the legal limit, despite having consumed no alcohol. Not only can sleepy drivers share the punishment of drunk drivers, they share the same test as well!
Afaceinthematrix
missdixy wrote:
I don't know how well this method would work. For one, I'm sure some lawyer somewhere defending someone in this case would argue that the car ride to the police station (where the person actually got to just sit in a car and ride it instead of focusing on driving it) made the person more relaxed and more tired and thus any test conducted at the police station could not prove that the person was tired/drowsy while they were driving earlier etc.


I take it that you've never had the joy or pleasure of riding in a police vehicle. That would be a very hard case to argue. Police cars are extremely uncomfortable. It would be damn near impossible to argue that they made the suspect relaxed. The seat is a wooden board. Your hands are handcuffed behind your back and that sort of hurts. There's not a lot of room, etc. Besides, if you can't handle a fifteen minute car ride that's extremely uncomfortable then I do not think you were awake enough to drive.

Lawyers will try to argue against everything; that's their job. That doesn't give an excuse, however, to not try your hardest to stop something. Should we ignore all bloody gloves just because Johnny was able to argue that, "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit?"

Quote:
Also, being pulled over etc. may definitely cause someone to get freaked out and have an adrenaline rush which may cause them to pause coordination tests that they otherwise wouldn't have? Just another thought.


There will still, most likely, be obvious signs that someone is too tired to drive. Besides, you're right in a sense that some people will get away with it. But many will not. Many get a way with drunk driving. That doesn't give us an excuse to not ban it. I have trouble accepting the argument that just because some people will get away with something means that we should not outlaw it... I really don't see your logic there...
missdixy
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
missdixy wrote:
I don't know how well this method would work. For one, I'm sure some lawyer somewhere defending someone in this case would argue that the car ride to the police station (where the person actually got to just sit in a car and ride it instead of focusing on driving it) made the person more relaxed and more tired and thus any test conducted at the police station could not prove that the person was tired/drowsy while they were driving earlier etc.


I take it that you've never had the joy or pleasure of riding in a police vehicle. That would be a very hard case to argue. Police cars are extremely uncomfortable. It would be damn near impossible to argue that they made the suspect relaxed. The seat is a wooden board. Your hands are handcuffed behind your back and that sort of hurts. There's not a lot of room, etc. Besides, if you can't handle a fifteen minute car ride that's extremely uncomfortable then I do not think you were awake enough to drive.

Lawyers will try to argue against everything; that's their job. That doesn't give an excuse, however, to not try your hardest to stop something. Should we ignore all bloody gloves just because Johnny was able to argue that, "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit?"

Quote:
Also, being pulled over etc. may definitely cause someone to get freaked out and have an adrenaline rush which may cause them to pause coordination tests that they otherwise wouldn't have? Just another thought.


There will still, most likely, be obvious signs that someone is too tired to drive. Besides, you're right in a sense that some people will get away with it. But many will not. Many get a way with drunk driving. That doesn't give us an excuse to not ban it. I have trouble accepting the argument that just because some people will get away with something means that we should not outlaw it... I really don't see your logic there...


I am not saying that we shouldn't ban it because some people may get away with it. I am simply trying to make the point that we need more accurate ways of measuring drowsiness if we want to try to ban it.
deanhills
missdixy wrote:
I am not saying that we shouldn't ban it because some people may get away with it. I am simply trying to make the point that we need more accurate ways of measuring drowsiness if we want to try to ban it.
I thought drowsiness was already banned in eight States, and they have a good test for it, which is the same one for measuring sobriety. Are you saying that the test that is being used in the eight States is not an accurate test?
Ghost Rider103
missdixy wrote:
Afaceinthematrix wrote:
missdixy wrote:
I don't know how well this method would work. For one, I'm sure some lawyer somewhere defending someone in this case would argue that the car ride to the police station (where the person actually got to just sit in a car and ride it instead of focusing on driving it) made the person more relaxed and more tired and thus any test conducted at the police station could not prove that the person was tired/drowsy while they were driving earlier etc.


I take it that you've never had the joy or pleasure of riding in a police vehicle. That would be a very hard case to argue. Police cars are extremely uncomfortable. It would be damn near impossible to argue that they made the suspect relaxed. The seat is a wooden board. Your hands are handcuffed behind your back and that sort of hurts. There's not a lot of room, etc. Besides, if you can't handle a fifteen minute car ride that's extremely uncomfortable then I do not think you were awake enough to drive.

Lawyers will try to argue against everything; that's their job. That doesn't give an excuse, however, to not try your hardest to stop something. Should we ignore all bloody gloves just because Johnny was able to argue that, "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit?"

Quote:
Also, being pulled over etc. may definitely cause someone to get freaked out and have an adrenaline rush which may cause them to pause coordination tests that they otherwise wouldn't have? Just another thought.


There will still, most likely, be obvious signs that someone is too tired to drive. Besides, you're right in a sense that some people will get away with it. But many will not. Many get a way with drunk driving. That doesn't give us an excuse to not ban it. I have trouble accepting the argument that just because some people will get away with something means that we should not outlaw it... I really don't see your logic there...


I am not saying that we shouldn't ban it because some people may get away with it. I am simply trying to make the point that we need more accurate ways of measuring drowsiness if we want to try to ban it.


Agreed.

Afaceinthematrix, it would be extremely hard to accuse someone of "drowsy driving" by using some of the techniques suggested, for the same reason a polygraph test doesn't count as evidence in a court room.

You have to have some SOLID proof that someone is under the influence of "drowsy driving."
Donutey
Er, public service?
Nick2008
Drowsy driving... I personally would never drive in an extremely drowsy state (since I probably wouldn't push my "drowsy" limits to the brink of falling asleep behind the wheel) since I probably couldn't even get out of the parking lot without taking a nap. Laughing

But that's me, there's obviously others who drive drowsy and even fall asleep behind the wheel in doing so. I have heard these stories many times.

In terms of punishment for drowsy driving, the driver should only be punished for the traffic laws he/she violated. If you are driving on the road and breaking traffic laws, a policeman will pull you over and write a citation for that. There should be no citation for "Drowsy Driving", only for the traffic laws violated, since a citation for drowsy driving on top of the traffic violations could be easily challenged in the court of law without an accurate test for drowsiness.

But if there was a citation for drowsy driving...

The fine should be a new mattress. Very Happy
deanhills
Ghost Rider103 wrote:
You have to have some SOLID proof that someone is under the influence of "drowsy driving."
Ocalhoun has already pointed out that there is a good test for measuring "drowsy driving", it makes sense to me that there is already a good test available:
Quote:
Thanks to a little quirk of biology, this isn't a problem.
When you're extremely tired, your body produces chemicals that will register on a breathalyzer, just like alcohol will: an extremely sleepy person will register above the legal limit, despite having consumed no alcohol. Not only can sleepy drivers share the punishment of drunk drivers, they share the same test as well!
ocalhoun
deanhills wrote:
Ghost Rider103 wrote:
You have to have some SOLID proof that someone is under the influence of "drowsy driving."
Ocalhoun has already pointed out that there is a good test for measuring "drowsy driving", it makes sense to me that there is already a good test available:
Quote:
Thanks to a little quirk of biology, this isn't a problem.
When you're extremely tired, your body produces chemicals that will register on a breathalyzer, just like alcohol will: an extremely sleepy person will register above the legal limit, despite having consumed no alcohol. Not only can sleepy drivers share the punishment of drunk drivers, they share the same test as well!

That seems questionable now. Though the source I heard it from is trustworthy, it's only one source, and there's quite a lack of verification.
Ghost900
I think there should be a fine for driving if you have been awake for over 24 hours asleep and you are driving like a drunk.

Everybody handles lack of sleep differently but for me, I would be asleep at the wheel after 24 hours of being awake. Other people can handle little to almost no sleep for a little while. Very Happy

Ocalhoun I had not heard of the human body producing a similar thing to being drunk. That is very interesting if it is true.[/code]
standready
Having driven really drowsy more than once in my life, I know alertness is down. Keeping vehicle in lane can be rough. Attention to suroundings is poor. All those would be probable cause to pull a person since they border on reckless driving.
I know finding a place to take a short nap helps. Coffee, windows down, radio loud have helped me as well.
I did not know that a breathe-analyzer would detect it. Other simple test would. Just looking at a drowsy person's eyes is a good start. Maybe other coordination test would show it.
As for punishment, if involved in an accident, yes like a DUI. Otherwise, warning and escort to a rest area.
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