Massachusetts bill targets sleepy drivers

| 8/11/2005

If a Massachusetts state lawmaker gets his way, sleepy drivers in the state will get a wake-up call.

A bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, would make driving while drowsy a criminal offense similar to driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

It is intended to make drivers more aware of the dangers of driving while drowsy through education programs and would also require law enforcement to learn how to recognize the sleep-deprived driver.

“The number of traffic fatalities caused by drowsy drivers is staggering,” Moore, chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, said in a written statement. “This is a public safety issue that we can address by acknowledging the problem, educating people about it and giving our law enforcement officers the tools to prevent it.”

The bill also would require studies to measure and test when a driver poses a danger to himself or others so that drowsy driving could be subject to penalties for acting irresponsibly. The legislation also seeks to increase the penalties for vehicular homicide resulting from drowsy driving.

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 Capital News service reported.

The Massachusetts bill, S2124, is in the legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation.