Should Drowsy Driving Be A Crime?
It's so tempting for people -- and especially legislators -- to tell themselves they can solve every problem every by creating yet another law.
Now, it's drowsy driving some hope to criminalize -- even if the driver has caused no accident and broken now laws. Overlawyered's Walter Olson blogs at The New York Times that this is wrong -- that existing laws already apply to recklessness:
And libertarians and defense lawyers are right to object.
To begin with, under the principle of the rule of law, persons exposed to criminal penalty deserve fair notice of what conduct is lawful and what is not. In the case of drunken driving, we pretend at least to objectivity in the form of breath analysis and a rule of thumb of so many drinks per hour. Yet there's no objective or even pseudo-objective test for drowsiness. Will cops be empowered to pull over the stone-sober driver at the D.U.I. checkpoint whose eyelids look too droopy, or watch the convenience store for drivers who seem too eager for a double coffee at 3 a.m.?
Highway fatalities have been declining for decades, and we've already forfeited enough of our individual liberty to uniformed officers at checkpoints. Quoted in The Times, the New York lawmaker who sponsored one failed bill against drowsy driving seemed mystified that "There was a concern that government again was encroaching into people's day-to-day lives." Yes, there was. And that concern is valid.