The issue of drowsy driving has gotten a lot of attention lately. Some say it is as dangerous as drunk driving, which has contributed to its bad reputation over recent years. The fact of the matter remains that drowsy driving is not drunk driving. So, why in Virginia could a person face potential jail time for it?
While you will not find anything in the Virginia statutes on drowsy driving, there is plenty to find on reckless driving. This behavior is typically considered tailgating, cutting people off, and changing lanes suddenly multiple times. In Virginia, it is a serious offense. Reckless driving in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor. For those convicted, it could mean a jail sentence of one year and up to $2,500 in fines.
“It is ridiculous to consider someone that is tired behind the wheel as a criminal,” says Patrick Woolley of Price Benowitz. “A person that drives reasonably when they are alert and awake is not going to perform the aggressive driving moves of a reckless driver just because they are tired. They should not be classified as such.”
Law enforcement officials and safety advocates alike state that when a person is feeling drowsy on the roads, they should pull over until the feeling passes. These officials also state that it is not wise to pull over to the side of the road, as this could make one a sitting duck for a car accident. However, a person should pull into a parking lot of a restaurant or other establishment until they feel more focused.
Unfortunately, that is not always easy to do. A person cannot always stop what they are doing to squeeze in eight hours of sleep. When that is not a possibility, a person should certainly not face criminal charges for it. Not only could this mean jail time, but it also means they could have a permanent criminal record. That could prevent them from obtaining employment, and housing and academic opportunities.
That seems like an extremely high price to pay for being a little tired behind the wheel.