It is not a specific crime in Washington to “drive drowsy,” although the Washington Legislature has considered legislation that would make it a crime. This is not to say that a person who drives drowsy could not be convicted of reckless driving, vehicular assault or vehicular homicide if charged with any of those crimes due to drowsy driving.
An arrest on felony charges of vehicular assault or vehicular homicide could result from drowsy driving—even if the driver had not consumed alcohol or any drug. This is because the law prohibits driving “with disregard for the safety of others” which causes substantial bodily harm to or the death of another person.
Law enforcement officers aggressively seek and stop drivers who exhibit “cues” of impaired driving. These officers want to get the drivers off the road and will arrest any driver that they suspect to be impaired by alcohol or drugs. A drowsy driver could easily be caught in a net intended for drink drivers. Drowsy drivers, like drunk or drugged drivers, may have bloodshot, watery, droopy eyes, and may not present themselves to officers as being in full control of their mental faculties. Thus, persons driving while drowsy could very well find themselves under arrest for a DUI.
A person may be charged with DUI if alcohol or any drug is a factor in a drowsy driving incident, or negligent driving in the first degree if the driver exhibits the effects of having consumed alcohol or an illegal drug in a drowsy driving incident.
While there is no specific offense of “driving while drowsy, ” the Legislature has taken other measures to reduce the risks of injury and death due to drowsy drivers on our highways. Washington State has focused efforts on countermeasures such as installing “rumble strips,” cable median barriers, and safety rest areas for highway travelers.
Rumble strips have been credited with a 58% reduction in crossover collision rates for asleep or fatigued drivers. These grooves installed in the centerlines and on highway shoulders make a loud “rumble” when tires are driven over them, rousing the drowsy or inattentive driver.
Cable median barriers have been associated with a 64% reduction in the serious injury collision rate, and a 44% reduction in the fatal collision rate. These serve to keep a vehicle from crossing a median into oncoming traffic.
Finally, safety rest areas seek to provide travelers with a safe and convenient facility where they can rest before continuing on their journeys. There are currently over 40 rest stops in the state.
If you have been charged with a crime that involved drowsy driving, we can help you as we have helped others. Contact us now for a free case evaluation.