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What are the penalties for drowsy driving?

At some point in your driving life, you have probably felt sleepy; in fact, you may even have fallen asleep at the wheel, but is this a crime? Some states, including Minnesota, do not have laws that address drowsy driving specifically. However, if you exhibit erratic driving behavior, you may run afoul of the distracted driving laws in this state, and if, in your drowsiness, you are responsible for causing a car crash, you can be charged with reckless driving.

Looking for warning signs

Drowsiness can overtake you before you realize what is happening. The warning signs, however, include such actions as yawning or blinking repeatedly. You might find yourself daydreaming, and it may become increasingly difficult to focus on the road ahead. The onset of drowsiness affects your judgment and reflexes, and when you can no longer keep your head up, you are in serious trouble.

A form of impaired driving

You may think of impaired driving in connection with drugs or alcohol, but drowsy driving is also a form of impairment because sleepiness adversely affects your ability to drive safely. In addition to your decision-making ability, your judgment, reaction time and capacity for being attentive and alert are all affected by fatigue. Motor vehicle accidents caused by drowsy drivers occur most often either in the late afternoon or between midnight and 6 a.m. The reason is that at these times, there is a dip in your circadian rhythm, which is the body's internal clock for regulating sleep.

Dealing with the laws

In Minnesota, distracted driving laws make it illegal for you to read, write or send messages electronically or to access the internet on wireless, handheld devices while driving, and even when you are stopped at a light. If you are under the age of 18, it is also illegal when driving to use a cell phone, except to call 911 if an emergency arises. If your driving behavior is such that the rights or safety of others is compromised, you can be charged with reckless driving. Drowsy driving can fall under either of these laws.

As dangerous as drunk driving

The more you learn about drowsy driving, the more you will notice the similarities to the problems that can be caused by driving drunk. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 80 percent of Americans admit they have felt sleepy while driving, and fatigue, like alcohol, often leads to critical performance errors.

If you are a member of this group and have been charged with distracted or reckless driving, you undoubtedly have many questions and concerns. You will need representation, and you can turn to an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the road ahead.

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