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Drowsy Driving Commission Proposed By Texas Lawmaker
According to the Centers for Disease Control, around four percent of American adults said they fell asleep behind the wheel at least once in the last month. State Representative Eddie Rodriguez told KEYE TV he hopes to make the roads safer by starting a drowsy driving commission this legislative session.
Drowsy driving causes thousands of crashes every year. Representative Rodriguez wants the commission to focus on 18 wheelers, where drivers can be behind the wheel up to eleven hours straight in Texas.
Some truckers we talked with said they don't want any new laws or regulations.
Corky Singleton is one of them. He has been driving big rigs for 37 years.
More or less, I can be my own boss, he said about his love for his job.
Singleton admits he doesn't have a perfect record when it comes to drowsy driving.
When youre out in the middle of nowhere, nothing around, you get tired, he said. Especially when there is bad weather, like today, it just wears you out.
So much so, that he recalls one night, after about six hours of driving, he fell asleep behind the wheel.
I woke up and saw the exit sign and that's what I did, he told us. I exited the highway and totaled the truck.
Representative Rodriguez filed a bill after hearing a similar story, but with far greater consequences.
It's a public safety issue for me, he explained. Someones husband was killed in an accident. He (the other driver) was driving an 18 wheeler who suffered from sleep apnea. He (the truck driver) fell asleep behind the wheel.
Representative Rodriguez is hoping to start a Drowsy Driving Commission to find ways to lower the number of accidents due to sleep deprivation. It would study the possibility of stricter regulations, harsher penalties, enforcement and education for truck drivers and law enforcement.
It is a problem and lives are being lost, Rep. Rodriguez said. I think at the very minimum we can study and see if we can get a couple ideas.
Singleton said although he has had a few close calls, he's against any changes for truck drivers. That includes some of Representative Rodriguezs suggestions like education programs for drivers about the effects of drowsy driving and training law enforcement to recognize symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Singleton said personal accountability is enough.
We've got too many laws as it is, Singleton told us. Use better judgment. If you're sleepy, take a nap. Loads are not worth dying over.
Singleton is one of nearly seven million commercial drivers on the roads in the U.S.
Representative Rodriguez told us he is planning to file another bill on this same topic. It would require commercial drivers to be tested for sleep apnea before receiving their license. It would also impose additional penalties for accidents caused by truck drivers who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but have not been treated.
Representative Rodriguez told KEYETV the commission would be made up of leaders from state agencies and lawmakers. He added it would not cost the state a dime.
By Katherine Stolp