Drowsy Driving

Maggie's Law states that a sleep-deprived driver qualifies as a reckless driver who can be convicted of vehicular homicide. It's named in honor of a 20-year-old college student, Maggie McDonnell, who was killed when a driver — who admitted he hadn't slept for 30 hours and had been using drugs — crossed three lanes of traffic and struck her car head-on in 1997.

When the case went to trial, the jury was deadlocked. In a second trial, the defense argued that because there was no law against falling asleep at the wheel in New Jersey, the driver did nothing wrong. The judge accepted this argument, and the driver received only a suspended jail sentence and a $200 fine.

That decision prompted Maggie's mother, Carole McDonnell, to lobby for a law to punish drowsy drivers in New Jersey. Maggie's Law defines fatigue as being without sleep for more than 24 consecutive hours and makes driving while fatigued a criminal offense.

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