A Michigan House panel hit the
snooze button on legislation that sought to serve as a wake-up call for
The House Committee on Criminal
Justice failed to approve a bill before the session ended Thursday, Dec. 9,
that was intended to punish sleepy drivers who cause fatal accidents. The
committee’s inaction effectively kills the measure for the year.
The bill, introduced by Rep.
Lorence Wenke, R-Kalamazoo, called for people who drive after going without
sleep for more than 24 hours and cause the death of another person to be
charged with a misdemeanor. The tired driver could spend up to two years in
prison and face a $2,000 fine.
Richard Barkley, a spokesman for
Wenke, said the committee had concerns about enforcement.
“Unlike measuring blood alcohol
content, there’s no real objective measure of how tired someone is. Absent of
witnesses, how do you decide how long someone’s gone without sleep unless they
admit it or you can pin down their activities for the past 24 hours,” Barkley
Wenke said the bill – HB5707 – was
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
Then-New Jersey Gov. James
McGreevey signed the measure into law in 2003, encouraging other states to
In 2002, 977 crashes in Michigan
were reportedly caused by fatigue – 10 of them fatal – according to the Capital
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, the news service reported.
Barkley said Wenke intends to
reintroduce the measure when lawmakers reconvene next year.
“He believes it’s an issue that
needs to be addressed and discussed,” Barkley said.
– By Keith Goble, state