N.J. Law Punishes Drowsy Drivers
According to the Associated Press (AP), sleep-deprived drivers who cause deadly crashes now face criminal penalties under a measure that became law Aug. 5 in New Jersey. AP reported that the bill signed by Gov. James E. McGreevey allows prosecutors to charge a sleep-deprived driver with vehicular homicide, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. "Maggie's Law" was named for 20-year-old Maggie McDonnell, a college student who died in 1997 when a vehicle driven by Michael Coleman swerved across three lanes and hit her car, says AP. Coleman told authorities he had not slept for 30 hours. He was ultimately cited for reckless driving and fined $200 — the maximum sentence. Drivers who caused fatal crashes could have faced stiffer penalties under previous law if the accidents involved aggravating factors such as drinking and speeding. AP reported that according to the AAA Mid-Atlantic Region, 24 hours without sleep has a similar effect to a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent, the legal threshold for drunken driving in New Jersey. "This is a wakeup call for New Jersey and the first of its kind in the nation," said Maggie's mother, Carol McDonnell, who lobbied for the measure, AP reported.