Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Carmel on the Case: Drowsy Drivers
Here's something else to worry about on the highway - drowsy drivers. A recent study shows one in five Americans have nodded off while behind the wheel. And that's having deadly consequences. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is in West Dade live with a startling look at what's happening on our roadways.
(WSVN) -- Driving at any hour can be dangerous here in South Florida.
But nighttime can be the worst time to be on the highway.
Cars driven into canals - into houses -- into cement poles - jumping medians into oncoming traffic - overturning and ejecting passengers --
All South Florida accidents.
All wake-up calls to drivers who fell asleep behind the wheel.
Sgt. Alex Annunziato of the Florida Highway Patrol says, "I've pleaded with people not to drive."
FHP Sergeant Alex Annunziato says the number of drowsy drivers here in South Florida...is a real eye opener.
Sgt. Annunziato says, "Maybe they just don't have the luxury of pulling over, don't feel like pulling over and that cup of coffee may be five minutes too late and they get involved in a crash."
We rode with him on overnight patrols and what we saw is enough to keep you awake at night.
Sgt. Annunziato says, "You're doing fifteen miles under the posted speed limit, it's too slow."
Even being just a little tired can cause big trouble because of what else is on the road in the middle of the night.
Sgt. Annunziato says, "He's not pulling over for me."
"Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!"
This man was driving close to 100 miles an hour.
He was driving a stolen car.
And --- he ended up being charged with driving drunk.
Sgt. Annunziato says, "He could have definitely killed somebody or himself."
When it comes to impaired drivers this is the kind of picture that comes to mind...a DUI suspect in handcuffs at three am.
But a drowsy driver can be just as impaired as a drunk driver.
A recent study reveals a driver who has been awake for twenty-four hours performs "the same" as a driver with a blood alcohol level of point one -- higher than the legal limit.
Grieving MotherCarol McDonnell says, "Actually a driver asleep at the wheel is more dangerous than an intoxicated driver as they lose consciousness."
Carol McDonnell knows the danger first hand.
Her 20-year-old daughter Maggie died because someone fell asleep at the wheel.
Carol says, "It destroyed my family - devastated us."
It cost the driver who caused the accident - a two hundred-dollar fine.
But the heartbroken mother changed the law.
She was there when New Jersey's Governor signed "Maggie's Law".
It makes drowsy driving a crime with a possible ten-year prison sentence.
Carol says, "It will allow a jury the opportunity to consider sleep deprivation as recklessness and vehicular homicide."
Florida may be next.
Sen. Skip Campbell says, "It kills people."
State Senator Skip Campbell plans to introduce a similar bill in March.
He says, "When you're driving and you're not drowsy and someone crosses the roadway because they fall asleep, there's not much you can do to get out of their way and that's the danger."
This crumpled up car is what's left after two tired people nearly killed a third innocent driver on Alligator Alley.
AttorneyJohn Krupnick says, "This accident was as violent as any I've seen in almost thirty years in this type of work."
Attorney John Krupnick will soon show a jury this description of what happened.
He says, "It's the middle of the night..."
He says a sleeping driver crossed the median and hit his client head on.
Both cars were stopped on the roadway when a tired trucker crashed into them.
The impact broke almost every bone in his client's body.
He lived but he's permanently disabled.
Attorney Krupnick says, "Between the truckers who push themselves, between young people who try to blow the candle at both ends - you've got a lot of fatigued people out there."
This device might help. It measures how long a drivers eyes are closed and beeps if they are closed too long.
Its pricey - 25 hundred dollars.
But then what price do you put on safety?
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
For More Information On The Driver Fatigue Monitor: