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The Nation

New Jersey Targets Sleepy Drivers in Deadly Crashes

August 06, 2003|From Associated Press

WEST DEPTFORD, N.J. — Sleep-deprived drivers who cause deadly crashes in New Jersey now face criminal penalties under a measure that became law Tuesday.

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.

Coleman told authorities that he had not slept for 30 hours. He was cited for reckless driving and fined $200 -- the maximum sentence.

According to the AAA Mid-Atlantic Region, 24 hours without sleep has a similar effect to a blood-alcohol level of 0.10%, the legal threshold for drunk driving in New Jersey.

McGreevey cited a federal study that estimated at least 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths each year are the result of drivers falling asleep.

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