There is not currently any criminal offence of driving whilst tired, there are only currently offences of drink driving and drug driving. The police are able to test for alcohol and drugs in a driver’s system by using either a breath, blood or urine test. These capabilities in many respects are what originally allowed the offences of drink driving and drug driving to be legislated upon.
However, there is currently no such testing abilities regarding drowsy drivers. Studies suggest that driving having had less than five hours sleep is just as dangerous as driving when under the influence of alcohol. As such it is no surprise that testing for tiredness in drivers may be on the way.
Scientists in Australia are currently carrying out research and tests in order to produce a blood test that will in fact be able to pinpoint the exact amount of sleep an individual has had. It is thought that this test will be available within the next two years and would be used to test drivers involved in collisions. Fatigue whilst driving is thought to be one of the main causes of road traffic collisions. The scientists are said to now be able to trace five biomarkers in a person’s blood which will indicate if they have been awake for 24 hours or more. The testing for fatigued and drowsy drivers is something that has been called for by sleep experts for some time and would essentially allow the government to legislate against drivers driving having not had sufficient sleep.
The actual method and manner that such a test would be administered is obviously not known at this stage, however taking the example of a blood specimen being taken to test for drugs and alcohol by the police this is done at the police station at the request of the police by a health care professional. As such should legislation be brought in regarding tired driving one can only assume that this would be the method used to carry out the blood test. However the interesting aspect comes when considering how the police would demonstrate a reasonable suspicion that a person has been driving with insufficient sleep. As with drink or drug driving one must assume that the manner of individuals driving will be used as an indicator as to whether or not they have had a lack of sleep before getting behind the wheel.
The practicalities of this new possible road traffic offence will no doubt need to be determined with great detail being needed and much thought given by legislators. Nevertheless, it is highly likely that not having enough sleep and then driving, could in the near future result in a criminal offence.