We are used to hearing stories reported of drunk driving in the news; however, some people may not be aware of the growing phenomena of “drowsy driving.” As you can imagine, it is particularly difficult to prove that someone was drowsy or beginning to fall asleep at the time of an accident, but, according to a recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, auto accidents due to drowsy driving cost Americans $109 billion annually, not including property damage. The study also found that 18 hours without sleep was roughly equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, and after 24 sleepless hours the number jumped to 0.10%. The legal limit for alcohol concentration in the blood (BAC) is 0.08%.
Fatigued or exhausted driving also caused over 5,000 nationally deaths last year alone. Between 2012 and October 2015, Washington State Patrol cited fatigue or falling asleep as a cause for 4,700 automobile collisions. In a recent local example, a 29 year old in South Bend, WA fell asleep while driving her van carrying six children and one other adult woman. After losing control of the vehicle on a turn, she swerved off the road and struck a tree.
The driver and all seven passengers were injured, and two of the children, ages 9 and 6, were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center. Five of the children were not wearing seatbelts, and the driver has been charged with Negligent Driving 2nd Degree.
In another Washington instance this week, a fatigued driver from Burbank lost control of his 2016 Jeep Wrangler just outside of Richland according to Washington State Patrol. The vehicle left the road and rolled over, injuring 22 year old passenger Olivia Bear.
Various states are considering adopting legal measures to address drowsy driving, while others are implementing educational programs. Here in Washington, Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is held each November in order to educate drivers about the potential danger of sleepiness behind the wheel. Chief John Batiste of the Washington State Patrol told reporters that “Drowsy driving is as dangerous as getting behind the wheel while under the influence.”
Currently drowsy driving is categorized as negligent driving in the second degree, which is a misdemeanor punishable in Washington with a $550 fine ($250 plus court fees). This is distinct from negligent driving in the first degree which is a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine. Depending on the case, it is sometimes possible for someone charged with a DUI to have it reduced to negligent driving in the first degree, which, unlike a DUI, carries no mandatory jail time or license suspension.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, remember that you do not have to plead guilty, no matter the circumstances of your arrest. Experienced DUI-defense attorney Steve Karimi knows how to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Call his Seattle law offices today at (206) 661-8777 or contact him online to schedule a consultation.