Drowsy driving is a mammoth concern in California, with the Department of the California Highway Patrol finding that as many as 42,000 people are injured due to drowsy driving every year. It was further established that nearly 4% of respondents in a recent survey had fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once during the preceding 30 days. Apart from the grave dangers posed by drowsy driving, the legal implications can also be dire. It is therefore paramount that all drivers are not only able to identify the warning signs of drowsy driving, but are familiar with the legal consequence of engaging in it as well.
Don’t ignore the warning signs
In order to avoid the harsh consequences of drowsy driving, it is essential to identify the warning signs of fatigue as they start to present themselves. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, some of the most prevalent symptoms include frequent yawning and an inability to keep your eyes open, difficulty remembering the last few miles you have driven, difficulty maintaining your speed, and missing road signs or turns. If a driver experiences any of these symptoms, it is essential to pull over in a safe place as soon as possible and contact someone for assistance. You may even want to consider sleeping in your car if you find yourself in an area where it is permitted. If you are considering sleeping in your car, make sure you lock your doors and crack a window to keep the car well-ventilated while you doze off. Prevention is always better than cure, however, and it is highly advised to never get behind the wheel when you are tired.
Difference between drunk driving and drowsy driving
Drivers who are drowsy often share many characteristics with those who are under the influence of either alcohol or narcotics. Apart from engaging in a very similar style of driving, they may also share a number of physical symptoms, such as impaired vision and compromised gross and fine motor skills. While driving under the influence is a direct violation of the law in Orange County, drowsy driving is not. Driving drowsy does, however, result in numerous collisions, which makes it an extremely unsafe practice. Despite there being no statute that specifically prohibits driving while drowsy, the guilty driver may be subjected to both civil and criminal liability.
Legal implications of drowsy driving
The legal implications of drowsy driving are very complex, with each case needing a personalized approach. A driver who is seen driving recklessly can be charged with reckless driving in direct violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23103 VC. This violation is an offense at misdemeanor level, which means that anyone found guilty can expect to serve up to 90 days in prison. In the case of a drowsy driver being involved in a fatal accident, both investigators and prosecutors are able to take the driver’s fatigue into consideration when determining whether criminal charges are valid or not. It is possible that a drowsy driver who caused a fatal accident may be charged with vehicular manslaughter in direct violation of California Penal Code Section 192(c) PC. As this is what is known as a wobbler offense, the driver can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, in which case they will need to obtain good legal representation.
No one should be behind the steering wheel of a car if they aren’t fully alert. By identifying the symptoms of severe fatigue and taking the necessary precautions to avoid them, a driver can decrease their risk of being involved in an accident significantly.