Driving Under the Influence…of Fatigue

A car accident that causes serious injury and death is never good news. Still, high profile accidents can help bring attention to important issues of public safety. This is certainly true for the recent accident in New Jersey that left one comedian dead and seriously injured others, including Tracy Morgan-well-known former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and supporting actor in the sitcom, “30 Rock.”

In the aftermath of this accident, which left Mr. Morgan with numerous broken bones and in intensive care, prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against the driver of a Wal-Mart truck. According to the complaint, when the truck smashed into Mr. Morgan’s limo, its driver had been awake for over 24 hours. And since this accident, numerous national media outlets-including The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post-have shed much-needed light on the scourge of drowsy driving.

A Common Problem

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is responsible for over 100,000 car accidents every year, which lead to 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths. Perhaps even more shockingly, a 2002 report by the same agency revealed that over 1/3 of all drivers nod off or fall asleep at least once behind the wheel at some point in their driving careers.

Some state legislatures are beginning to take action against drowsy driving. A handful-like California, Florida, and Pennsylvania-have passed measures designed to educate the public about the problem. There is a law pending in the New York legislature that would create the felony of “vehicular homicide caused by driving while ability impaired by fatigue.” And over a decade ago, New Jersey passed “Maggie’s Law,” which treats a driver that has been without sleep for 24 hours as driving as recklessly as someone with a 0.10 blood alcohol level.

For now, Illinois remains among the vast majority of states neither enacting criminal penalties for drowsy driving nor undertaking robust driver education campaigns. But this doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem here. Indeed, one 2009 study reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 2.9% of Illinois drivers reported falling asleep while driving in the preceding 30 days.

Still, fatigued driving has not escaped Springfield’s notice entirely. The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office provides advice that, while obvious to some, is important to bear in mind. The office recommends taking advantage of natural energy boosters, like exercise or coffee before travel. In addition, it is also crucial to avoid fatigue behind the wheel by getting adequate rest before a long trip or napping.

Get Legal Help

Hopefully, with the increased public awareness of the issue of drowsy driving and efforts by both state and local governments to combat the problem, the roads will be ever safer. Still, accidents happen. And if you or a loved one has been involved in a car crash caused by a negligently fatigued driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Please do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney who can answer any questions or concerns you may have.

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