Sleepy-driver bill introduced in Michigan

| 4/14/2004

A wake-up call to Michigan drivers has begun in the state House, as a bill introduced by Rep. Lorence Wenke, R-Kalamazoo, would punish sleepy drivers who cause fatal accidents.

Under the proposal, people who drive after going without sleep for more than 24 hours and cause the death of another person could be charged with a misdemeanor, the Capital News Service reported. The tired driver could spend up to two years in prison and face a $2,000 fine.

Wenke said HB5707 is inspired by New Jersey’s “Maggie’s Law,” adopted after a driver who hadn’t slept for 30 hours killed 20-year-old Maggie McDowell. The man received a $200 ticket.

New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey signed the measure into law in June, encouraging other states to follow.

In 2002, 977 crashes in Michigan were caused by fatigue – 10 of them fatal – according to the news service.

The U.S. Department of Transportation identifies fatigue as the biggest safety problem in transportation operations, costing more than $12 billion a year in productivity and property loss.

“People are falling asleep at the wheels,” Wenke said. “To get behind the wheel after not sleeping for 24 hours and know it is like being intoxicated.