Legislation Makes Drowsy Driving a Crime

(KCPW News) Drowsy driving could soon be a crime in Utah, not just a bad idea. Representative Lee Perry, a Utah Highway Patrol lieutenant, wants to add fatigue to the list of distractions a driver can be cited for by law enforcement. Perry recalled a tragedy where three people were killed by a young driver who fell asleep behind the wheel.

“Because of that tragedy, we did some research and there really wasn’t a good law to fit fatigued driving,” said Perry. “We charged him with what they call careless driving at the time, and that sort of fit, but it didn’t specifically lay out fatigue. So, in honor of these parents, I chose to run this bill.”

Perry says his right now, police can cite drowsy drivers with reckless driving, but that can easily be overturned by a judge. The lawmaker has had personal experience with the problem.

“I was driving in a marked highway patrol car one day at 65 miles an hour on the interstate and I had somebody pass me. And I knew he was either asleep or he was praying because his head was down and he passed me at 85 miles an hour. Lucky I was there because I hit my lights and he didn’t react, and then I hit my siren and he woke up,” said Perry.

The penalty would be a Class C misdemeanor charge. Perry’s bill passed out of committee on an 8-2 vote Thursday, and will now be debated on the House floor.