NJ drowsy driver bill becomes law

| 8/11/2003

Gov. James E. McGreevey signed into law Aug. 5 a bill that permits prosecutors to charge drivers who kill another person after falling asleep behind the wheel with vehicular homicide.

Under S1644, motorists in New Jersey who drive after going without sleep for more than 24 hours and cause the death of another driver could be charged with vehicular homicide. The tired driver could spend up to 10 years in prison and face a $100,000 fine.

The new law is named “Maggie’s Law” for Maggie McDowell, a 20-year-old college student from Gloucester County who was killed in 1997 by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. The man received a $200 ticket.

Previously, driving fatigued in the Garden State was not a crime, even if the drowsy driver’s vehicle killed someone else. Under the new law, operating a vehicle in a sleep-deprived state is considered reckless driving.