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Falling asleep behind the wheel constitutes inattentive driving under § 346.89(1)

Dodge County v. Giovanina Louise Ray, 2013AP1588, District 4, 11/7/13; court of appeals decision (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

The general prohibition against inattentive driving in § 346.89(1) covers falling asleep behind the wheel. Ray argued the statutory language prohibiting a person from being “so engaged or occupied as to interfere with the safe driving” of the vehicle required engagement or occupation with something “external” and doesn’t apply to sleeping because, based on the common meanings of the words, being “engaged” or “occupied” in sleeping is an oxymoron. The court of appeals holds the provision’s plain language, when read in conjunction with all of § 346.89, prohibits any behavior that diverts the driver’s attention from the task of safe driving. (¶8). “As a matter of common sense, sleeping while driving ‘interfere[s] with the safe driving of [the] vehicle.’  Falling asleep while driving is extremely dangerous.” (¶9).

The court rejects the county’s requests for costs and fees under Rule 809.25(3), concluding that while Ray’s argument was rejected “her position … is not frivolous.” (¶10).

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