SWOV Catalogus


A road to injustice paved with good intentions : Maggie's misguided crackdown on drowsy driving.
C 34561 [electronic version only]
Levine, J.D.
Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 56 (2005), No. 6 (June), Note 1297, 16 p.

Samenvatting There is no doubt that sleep-deprived drivers present a considerable danger to those travelling America's roads, each year taking a heavy toll on passengers, hapless bystanders, and fellow drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that annually 100,000 auto crashes are caused by driver fatigue, injuring 71,000 people and killing 1,550 more. Fatigue-related crashes also represent at least $12.5 billion in property loss and diminished productivity. These consequences are the result of a society that regularly ignores the risks of driving without adequate rest. Studies show that seventeen percent of Americans (or almost thirty-two million drivers) have fallen asleep while driving, and one percent (or almost two million drivers) admit that their drowsy driving or dozing off has resulted in an accident. Yet, until recently, policymakers and prosecutors have largely overlooked the problem. This began to change in the summer of 2003 when the New Jersey legislature made national headlines by passing Maggie's Law, a first-of-its-kind law that permits unprecedented criminal penalties for drowsy drivers who are involved in deadly automobile accidents. Maggie's Law *1298 has had an influence on legislatures far beyond New Jersey's borders. Ten other states have decided to consider similar legislation, and even the U.S. Congress has considered a bill entitled "Maggie's Law." Policymakers, however, should use caution before quickly following New Jersey's lead. While the goals of Maggie's Law are laudable, its specific provisions and omissions are causes for concern. The Law's twenty-four-hour no-sleep rule for determining when a driver is subject to an inference of recklessness is an arbitrary standard, and is, as a result, significantly over-and under-inclusive. Enforcement of the Law could prove difficult because drivers can easily mislead authorities about the amount and time periods during which they last slept. There are also questions about whether the Law will indeed change a form of driver behaviour that often seems unavoidable. Finally, the Law's vague wording creates a great deal of uncertainty. Part I of this Note introduces Maggie's Law and the reasons underlying its support. This Part will detail the history of Maggie's Law and the ongoing movement to introduce drowsy driving laws throughout the United States. Part I also sets forth the major provisions of Maggie's Law, as well as the amendments to the final version of the bill. Part II analyses the likely effect of Maggie's Law in New Jersey. Although drowsy driving is a major safety concern that policymakers have failed to adequately address, the way in which Maggie's Law is drafted will significantly reduce its effectiveness. In particular, Part II highlights the Law's most critical flaws, including problems concerning under- and over-inclusiveness, enforcement, focus, and ambiguity. Even if Maggie's Law is not the right solution, action must be taken to address the danger created by drowsy drivers. Part III suggests alternative language to the current version of the New Jersey law. This section explains why a totality of the circumstances approach, rather than the twenty-four-hour limit in Maggie's Law, is the best way to structure criminal sanctions against drowsy drivers. Finally, Part III suggests that *1299 the extra-judicial means of curtailing drowsy driving embodied in congressional legislation is essential to reduce drowsy driving accidents. (Author/publisher)
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