Legal reform followed a plea by Mont Albert man Arpad Gemes whose wife was killed by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel for changes to the charge of culpable driving causing death to include drowsy driving. A Mildura driver had been at an all night rave party and hadn't slept for 25 hours before the crash on Melbourne Cup Day, 1999. In the 101 hours before the crash he had slept for just 20 ½ hours.
In January 2004 the Victorian Government released a Discussion Paper, Culpable and Dangerous Driving Laws, which considered current laws in relation to driving involving a fatality.
The Discussion Paper specifically raised the issue of incorporating fatigued driving into an offence of dangerous driving causing death. Following feedback from stakeholders, section 318 of the Crimes Act 1958 was amended to explicitly provide that driving while fatigued can constitute the existing offence of culpable driving causing death.
The amendment provides that a person is guilty of culpable driving causing death where he or she drives a motor vehicle when fatigued to such an extent that he or she knew, or ought to have known , that there was an appreciable risk of him or her falling asleep or losing control of the vehicle, and where the driving was criminally negligent.
The Crimes (Dangerous Driving) Act 2004 came into operation on 13th October 2004. The maximum penalty is 5 years in jail. If the intent (mental element) is proven the maximum penalty is 20 years in jail.
"Law Review Targets Tired Drivers" (© The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 19 June 2004.
The TravelSafe committee yesterday launched a wide-ranging inquiry into fatiqued driving in the face of growing concern that crashes caused by tired motorists were grossly underestimated in official statistics.
Under the enquiry, which will receive public submissions until July 30th, TravelSafe will investigate whether current state legislation arms police with adequate powers to regulate and prevent fatigue driving.
TravelSafe chairman Jim Pearce said it had been proven driving while tired could be as dangerous as drink-driving.
For further details refer to the Queensland Parliament Website www.parliament.qld.gov.au
The first federal bill focusing on drowsy driving was introduced in the House of Representatives in October 2002 by Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ). The bill calls for incentives for states and communities to develop traffic safety programs to reduce crashes related to driver fatigue and sleep deprivation. The legislation also calls for training for police officers, the creation of driver's education curriculum, standardized reporting of fatigue-related crashes on police report forms, and the promotion of countermeasures such as continuous shoulder rumble strips and rest areas.
The bill, HR 5543, is called "Maggie's Law: National Drowsy Driving Act of 2003." It was named after Maggie McDonnell, a 20-year old college student from Andrews' congressional district in New Jersey who was killed by a drowsy driver on July 20, 1997 at 11:30 a.m. when the car she was driving was hit head-on by a van that had crossed three lanes of traffic. The driver of the van told police he had not slept in 30 hours; he also admitted to smoking crack cocaine hours before the accident. Since the jury wasn't allowed to consider driver fatigue as a factor, he was only convicted of careless driving and fined $200.