Sleep-driving party youth fined $1700

A YOUNG driver who killed a woman after partying all night and then falling asleep behind the wheel was yesterday fined a total of $1700. County Court Judge Liz Gaynor earlier ordered a jury to acquit Ashley Marriott, 21, of culpable driving causing the death of Kathryn Gemes and negligently causing serious injury to Mrs Gemes' husband, Arpad.

Outside the court, Mr Gemes expressed his disappointment with the judge's decision. "We, as a family, hold no grudges. But, as a family, we find the fact that it didn't get to the jury to decide a difficult pill to swallow," he said.
After hearing all the prosecution evidence, Judge Gaynor directed the jury to acquit Marriot on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction.
Later, Marriott pleaded guilty to careless driving and driving an unroadworthy car. In sentencing him, Judge Gaynor told him that what he did on the day was dreadful and had horrifying consequences for the Gemes family, his family and himself. She convicted and fined him $1200 for careless driving and fined him $500 on the unroadworthy charge.
The jury heard this week Marriott, then 18, had little sleep before he drove from his house in Mildura to attend a Melbourne Cup eve rave party.
Marriott was awake all night at the rave party then drove to a relative's house in the outer eastern suburbs before heading back to the city about 11am on Cup Day. He had two passengers in the car. They were both asleep.
While driving on Whitehorse Rd, Mont Albert, Marriot nodded off. His unroadworthy car veered on to the footpath and struck Mr and Mrs Gemes.
Mrs Gemes was killed and her husband suffered multiple broken bones. Marriott pleaded not guilty to culpable driving and negligently causing serious injury.
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© 2004 News Limited

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Once Sleep periods drop below seven hours, most of us become impaired - often as impaired as someone who is drunk.

No one is immune. Falling asleep at the wheel killed Herb Brooks, who coached the1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal ice hockey team. Earlier this year, Jeopardy ! host Alex Trebek fell asleep and ran off the road in California, escaping with minor injuries. Surveys by the National Sleep Foundation show that nearly 100 million drivers say they have driven while drowsy in just the last year alone; 32 million drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel.

What makes drowsy driving so deadly is that people are poor judges of how impaired they are by exhaustion. "Our brain is designed to be awake for about 16 hours maximum," explains sleep expert Dinges. Once sleep periods drop below seven hours, most of us become impaired - often as impaired as someone who is drunk. " The biological drive to sleep is so powerful that the brain will literally shut down the body in a 'sleep attack' , even if you are driving in a big city," he adds. Cumulative sleep loss - routinely sleeping fewer than six hours a night or having interrupted sleep - can have equally deadly consequences. Even simple tasks are made much more difficult by exhaustion. An alert person can respond to a visual cue, such as a light turning on, in about a quarter of a second. But it takes anywhere from two to 120 times longer for a tired person. Consider this: At 60 mph, drifting just 4 degrees in your lane can cause a crash in 2 seconds. " Many of these crashes are catastrophic," says Dinges, " because a driver who falls asleep even for a few seconds doesn't swerve or hit the brakes. "
Preventing drowsy driving is a challenge. Educating drivers, especially younger ones, is tough. Technology may offer some promise in a system that can monitor erratic driving and warn drivers before crashes. A third avenue is the legal system - by making fatigued driving a criminal offence.
New Jersey is the only state with such a law. The crusade was led by Carole McDonnell, whose daughter Maggie, 20, was killed in 1997 by a man who fell asleep at the wheel, crossed three lanes and hit her head-on. He was cited for reckless driving and fined $200. Today, being awake for more than 24 hours and causing a fatal crash in New Jersey can result in up to 10 years jail and a $100,000 fine under "Maggie's Law." "People don't have a good fix on the need for sleep, " says Richard Gelula, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. " I would rather see you late than dead "
" I Did This To Myself "
In 1990, Rusty Burris, then 18, fell asleep at the wheel just 90 seconds from home. He'd been awake for more than 36 hours. The crash left him paralyzed. Today Rusty works in the Surgical , Burn and Trauma Unit of the University Hospital in Columbia, Mo., where he sees many drowsy driving accident victims. " You can become intoxicated with fatigue, like you can with alcholol," Burris says. Then he adds, "I did this to myself. If I did this to someone else, I don't know how I could make it."
What You Can Do When Your'e Tired:
Don't just roll down the window and turn up the radio. These "fixes" work only for seconds or minutes.
Use caffeine wisely. Two cups of coffee may increase alertness for two to three hours. For a long trip, skip coffee or soda for most of the day before. Your brain will get more of a boost from the caffeine.
Nap. If you can't keep your eyes open, find a safe area to nap. A 20-minute nap can refresh you for one to three hours. Allow time to recover from grogginess.
Share the driving. Always make sure someone else in the car is awake to keep the driver engaged.
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©2004 Lyric Wallwork Winik. All rights reserved.

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' Sleep Deprived Man Pleads Guilty to Vehicular Homicide'

Maggie's Law Invoked

On September 25, 2004, 26-year old Scott Robb was driving erratically along northbound Route 47 in New Jersey while talking on his cell phone, according to witnesses. Suddenly his minivan veered out of its lane and into southbound traffic, striking and killing Thomas Herring, Jr., 50, who was also driving a minivan. Appearing before Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten, Robb admitted that he had gone without sleep for more than 24 hours and that the accident was caused by his sleepiness and inattention.

. He pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide after agreeing to a deal in which he would receive a five-year prison sentence. Prosecutors in the case relied upon Maggie's Law, which amended the vehicular statute in August 2003 to criminalize drowsy driving that leads to fatal accidents. Robb will have to serve 85 percent of the five-year sentence before being eligible for parole. Maggie's Law was named after Maggie McDonnell, a 20-year-old college student who lost her life in 1997 to a driver who had admitted to being awake for more than 30 hours. Maggie's mother, Carole McDonnell, worked with her state representatives in New Jersey and the National Sleep Foundation to pass the first law in the nation that specifically addresses the issue of drowsy driving......

© 2005 National Sleep Foundation

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'Tired Motorists Putting Lives at Risk'

The widow of the victim of the Selby rail disaster spoke out today as research showed that nearly half of motorists are putting lives at risk by driving while tired. Train driver Steve Dunn was one of six people killed when a sleep-deprived motorist crashed off the road and plunged onto tracks, causing two trains to collide in 2001. In response to the tragedy, road safety charity Brake carried out a survey which found that 45% of drivers have gotten behind the wheel in the last year after having less than five hours' sleep. And 10% of the 1,000 people surveyed last year drive on less than five hours' sleep at least once a month.

Mr Dunn's widow, Mary, told GMTV: "The problem is, lack of sleep is not as measurable as alcohol is. But they have now proved that driving without sleep is equivalent to being over the legal limit for alcohol." She said people tend not to take the issue so seriously because it is more difficult to prove.
Brake Chief Executive Mary Williams said: "The Selby rail crash was the catalyst for us to ask drivers how much sleep they had had and we found drivers were prepared to admit to having less than five hours' sleep, and this is an extraordinary shocking finding." So people do not seem to be changing their behaviour in the wake of the Selby rail disaster. "Today's results are extremely disturbing. 20% of crashes on monotonous roads such as motorways are caused by tired drivers." Drivers need to wake up to the fact that tiredness and driving are a potentially lethal combination. If you risk getting behind the wheel not having had enough sleep, you risk killing yourself and other innocent road users.
"If you intend to drive it is vital that you have a good night's sleep and take the necessary steps to combat tiredness on long journeys."
The Brake survey was released as a Government campaign warning drivers of the dangers of tiredness was relaunched. The Charity has warned drivers to make sure they get enough sleep before setting out off on a journey, and it offered advice to people who feel sleepy while driving. Brake advises motorists to take a break at least every two hours and make sure that these breaks are planned into the journey time. They should stop for at least 15 minutes and drink coffee or an energy drink with caffeine, snooze for 10 minutes or so by setting an alarm clock, and only drive when they feel alert.
Winding down the window or turning up the radio does not keep drivers awake, Brake has said.
The survey backs up research carried out by academics that showed that lack of sleep is seriously detrimental to the ability to drive safely. Researchers at Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre show that after only five hours' sleep, drivers have only a one in 10 chance of staying fully awake on a lengthy journey. If you do drive tired, research shows that it is impossible to stop yourself nodding off at the wheel. Professor Jim Horne said: "If these drivers realised that by driving while tired they are just as impaired as if they were well over the legal drink-drive alcohol limit, then they might have second thoughts."
Nigel Charlesworth, spokesman for motoring organisation Green Flag Motoring Assistance, which commissioned the survey added: "Despite tiredness being a major cause of road deaths, the research demonstrates that a significant number of drivers still underestimate the dangers.
"We hope these shocking results will act as a wake-up call for drivers to realise that driving while tired puts their own and other road users' lives at risk, and is really just as unacceptable and dangerous as drink or drug-driving."
Brake, with Green Flag's support, is using today's survey to call on the Government to take steps to prevent tired driving.
Mr Dunn was one of six people killed when a GNER express train travelling from Newcastle to London was derailed and collided with a fully-laden freight train travelling in the opposite direction.
The disaster, on 28 February 2001, was caused when builder Gary Hart's Land Rover and trailer plunged off the M62 motorway and came to rest on the East Coast main line near Great Heck.
Moments later it was struck at high-speed by a passenger train. Hart, of Strubby, Lincolnshire, was later convicted of 10 counts of causing death by dangerous driving after he fell asleep at the wheel and was sentenced to five years in prison at Leeds Crown Court.
Those who died in the disaster were Mr Dunn, Alan Ensor, Barry Needham, Ray Robson, Robert Shakespeare, Paul Taylor, Christopher Terry, Clive Vidgen and John Weddle.
An inquest last September found the six passengers and four railway staff who died in the Selby train disaster were unlawfully killed.
.....

© 2004 Press Association News, U.K.

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'Tired Motorists Putting Lives at Risk'

The widow of the victim of the Selby rail disaster spoke out today as research showed that nearly half of motorists are putting lives at risk by driving while tired. Train driver Steve Dunn was one of six people killed when a sleep-deprived motorist crashed off the road and plunged onto tracks, causing two trains to collide in 2001. In response to the tragedy, road safety charity Brake carried out a survey which found that 45% of drivers have gotten behind the wheel in the last year after having less than five hours' sleep. And 10% of the 1,000 people surveyed last year drive on less than five hours' sleep at least once a month.

Mr Dunn's widow, Mary, told GMTV: "The problem is, lack of sleep is not as measurable as alcohol is. But they have now proved that driving without sleep is equivalent to being over the legal limit for alcohol." She said people tend not to take the issue so seriously because it is more difficult to prove.
Brake Chief Executive Mary Williams said: "The Selby rail crash was the catalyst for us to ask drivers how much sleep they had had and we found drivers were prepared to admit to having less than five hours' sleep, and this is an extraordinary shocking finding." So people do not seem to be changing their behaviour in the wake of the Selby rail disaster. "Today's results are extremely disturbing. 20% of crashes on monotonous roads such as motorways are caused by tired drivers." Drivers need to wake up to the fact that tiredness and driving are a potentially lethal combination. If you risk getting behind the wheel not having had enough sleep, you risk killing yourself and other innocent road users.
"If you intend to drive it is vital that you have a good night's sleep and take the necessary steps to combat tiredness on long journeys."
The Brake survey was released as a Government campaign warning drivers of the dangers of tiredness was relaunched. The Charity has warned drivers to make sure they get enough sleep before setting out off on a journey, and it offered advice to people who feel sleepy while driving. Brake advises motorists to take a break at least every two hours and make sure that these breaks are planned into the journey time. They should stop for at least 15 minutes and drink coffee or an energy drink with caffeine, snooze for 10 minutes or so by setting an alarm clock, and only drive when they feel alert.
Winding down the window or turning up the radio does not keep drivers awake, Brake has said.
The survey backs up research carried out by academics that showed that lack of sleep is seriously detrimental to the ability to drive safely. Researchers at Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre show that after only five hours' sleep, drivers have only a one in 10 chance of staying fully awake on a lengthy journey. If you do drive tired, research shows that it is impossible to stop yourself nodding off at the wheel. Professor Jim Horne said: "If these drivers realised that by driving while tired they are just as impaired as if they were well over the legal drink-drive alcohol limit, then they might have second thoughts."
Nigel Charlesworth, spokesman for motoring organisation Green Flag Motoring Assistance, which commissioned the survey added: "Despite tiredness being a major cause of road deaths, the research demonstrates that a significant number of drivers still underestimate the dangers.
"We hope these shocking results will act as a wake-up call for drivers to realise that driving while tired puts their own and other road users' lives at risk, and is really just as unacceptable and dangerous as drink or drug-driving."
Brake, with Green Flag's support, is using today's survey to call on the Government to take steps to prevent tired driving.
Mr Dunn was one of six people killed when a GNER express train travelling from Newcastle to London was derailed and collided with a fully-laden freight train travelling in the opposite direction.
The disaster, on 28 February 2001, was caused when builder Gary Hart's Land Rover and trailer plunged off the M62 motorway and came to rest on the East Coast main line near Great Heck.
Moments later it was struck at high-speed by a passenger train. Hart, of Strubby, Lincolnshire, was later convicted of 10 counts of causing death by dangerous driving after he fell asleep at the wheel and was sentenced to five years in prison at Leeds Crown Court.
Those who died in the disaster were Mr Dunn, Alan Ensor, Barry Needham, Ray Robson, Robert Shakespeare, Paul Taylor, Christopher Terry, Clive Vidgen and John Weddle.
An inquest last September found the six passengers and four railway staff who died in the Selby train disaster were unlawfully killed.
.....

© 2004 Press Association News, U.K.

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