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Friday, November 12, 2010

Maggie’s Law: New Jersey Drivers Aren’t Drowsy

Maggie’s Law is a unique law that exists only in the state of New Jersey. It is a law that drivers must not knowingly operate a vehicle while impaired by lack of sleep. Should they cause a fatality, drivers who lack ample rest may be prosecuted for vehicular homicide. Other states like New York, Illinois and Kentucky are considering similar laws.

Having been passed in 2003, the National Sleep Foundation says, "This is the first law of its kind in the U.S." With reports about drowsy driving, it's easy to point out that it could be as bad, or even worse than driving under the influence, yet there aren’t too many laws like Maggie’s law that make it illegal.

A couple of weeks ago, New Jersey was identified as one of the states that had the lowest number of teen fatalities. A strict Graduated Driver’s Licensing program and legislation like Maggie's law may be pointed out as a reason for this. While there isn't a test yet that will be able to prove if a driver was indeed impaired by lack of sleep, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave a $1 million dollar contract to the University of Iowa for the development of such a device, but it's a safe assumption that it would take years until that becomes a reality.

While "drowsy driving," isn't quite outlawed yet in all parts of the country, agencies like the National Sleep Foundation, NHTSA and AAA are giving out advice in order to overcome rest-deprived fatigue:

  • Get plenty of rest the night before. At least 6 hours of sleep.

  • For longer trips, schedule a break every two hours, or every 100 miles.

  • Drive during the times when the driver is normally awake, and choose to sleep in overnight instead of powering on through the night, driving.

  • Stop driving when a driver feels that he is sleepy, or exhibiting signs of fatigue.

  • Take turns driving with a designated driver (for when you are sleep-deprived).

  • If taking medication: take note of the side effects of medicine. Some medications have side effects that include drowsiness.

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