Bill introduced to make drowsy driving punishable by fine
TOPEKA, Kan. (KAKE) - It's just as dangerous as drunk driving, yet completely legal: driving while sleepy.
Most of us have done it, before. One lawmaker thinks it should carry similar penalties to a DUI.
"I always have somebody with me," said Kansas driver Tyesa Chalmers. "I don't know, I haven't really been put in a position where I'm too tired so I have to pull over and stop."
Tyesa has avoided the temptation so many people face: staying behind the wheel for just one more minute...or one more hour, pushing through the exhaustion to just get home.
That decision can be deadly, as Kansas State Representative John Carmichael knows well.
"...the unfortunate death of a house member, Bob Bethell, who died several years ago on his way home from a late night, an early morning session at the legislature," he said.
Scientists say drowsy driving impairs your ability to react just as much as alcohol can.
A 2016 AAA study determined that missing just two or three hours of sleep in a night can quadruple the chances of crashing your car. The same study showed that while about 2% of crashes nationwide record fatigue as a factor, as many as 20% or 1 in 5 fatal accidents are actually the results of drowsy driving.
Last year, the Kansas Department of Transportation reports that falling asleep at the wheel or just being overly tired was reported as a factor in about 2% of car crashes, causing more than $276 million in damage.
Democratic Representative John Carmichael of Wichita says that if you don't have time to sleep, then you certainly shouldn't be driving. He has introduced a bill to make driving while drowsy a traffic infraction punishable with a $75 fine, that is if the drowsy driving can be proven.
"There's not a breath test for that," Carmichael said.
After an accident, many drivers tell police that they just fell asleep behind the wheel. That in itself would be proof enough to get the ticket under Carmichael's bill.
He says he's not doing it because he thinks it'll become law but hopefully will bring about a change in public attitudes.
Tyesa Chamlers concurs.
"I don’t really think you should be driving, anyway. Cause it’s not very safe. It’s kind of like drinking and driving. Kind of like the same thing," she pointed out.
This will mark the third time Carmichael has introduced the bill. It has yet to get a hearing.