Researchers in Australia claim to have developed a blood test that can determine with a 99% accuracy whether someone has had enough sleep to be able to safely drive. For years it has been claimed that driving while fatigued is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). In fact, this recent article about the sleepy driving blood test states that driving on less than 5 hours of sleep is allegedly the equivalent of driving at a blood alcohol level of over the legal limit. I am not sure whether they are talking about the legal limit of .05 in Australia, or the legal limit in the United States and UK of .08. Regardless, the idea is to develop this blood test so that people can be prosecuted for driving without enough sleep with almost no other evidence.
Much like the legal limit for DUI in Kansas and beyond assumes that everyone reacts the same to a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater, this assumes that all people react the same on the same amount of sleep. We know that this is not true. Some people require 8 hours of sleep a night and some require 4 or 5. Most of us get 6 or 7 hours of sleep. So, who is to say whether a person has had enough sleep to drive or not? That is why they want the test, because once they have a test that can give them a result, they can prosecute people whether their fatigue actually rendered them incapable of safely driving or not.
“Dr Madeline Sprajcer, a sleep researcher at Central Queensland University in Wayville, Australia, said such tests would go a long way to solving some of the enforcement issues associated with setting a legal drowsy driving limit. ‘This seems to be a barrier to a lot of the people we’ve spoken with,’ she said. ‘You can’t have a law if you’re not able to enforce it.’”
Again, this is the same principle of setting the legal limit for DUI in Kansas at .08. Originally, the legal limit was .15, then .10, and now .08. There are some who are urging the Kansas legislature to reduce the legal limit to .04. If they have a number, whatever it may be, they can prosecute Kansas drivers whether they are actually too impaired to be safely driving or not. Without a legal limit, the government would have to try to prove that the driver was too impaired to be safely driving by other means and that is more difficult. The government doesn’t like difficult. They like easy convictions. So, soon we are going to have a test that supposedly can measure how much sleep a person has had and shortly thereafter we will have laws that make it easy to charge and prosecute drivers for driving while sleepy.
Most likely, the penalties for driving while fatigued will be the same as for Kansas DUI cases, since the parties pushing this test claim that the dangerousness of both is the same. In fact, the legislature may just include sleep-deprivation in the Kansas DUI statute. The test is only 2 years away from being ready for deployment so time will tell.