AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that would outlaw driving after 24 hours without sleep was put to bed Wednesday by Maine lawmakers who concluded there would be virtually no way to enforce it.

The Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee made quick work Wednesday afternoon of LD 988, which would have imposed penalties similar to those for operating under the influence for driving after having been awake for 24 hours or being “so impaired by fatigue as to make it unsafe” to drive.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Stacey Guerin of Glenburn, indicated when she introduced the bill on Monday that she was willing to amend it so it would apply only to fatal crashes. Guerin sponsored the bill at the request of Jenny McPherson of Old Town, whose brother was killed last year by an allegedly over-tired driver.

Some law enforcement officers testified that they reconstruct the two days before a fatal crash anyway and that in some cases, a person’s sleep or lack of it during the prior 24 hours could be determined.

That wasn’t enough to convince the committee members, some of whom had raised concerns that the bill could have vast unintended consequences, including hindering employers and employees in jobs where 24-hour shifts are sometimes necessary. Others said that too-tired driving is already covered under distracted driver and driving to endanger laws.

“The fact that we were able to start the discussion on this important subject is a step in the right direction,” said Guerin in a written statement. “Hopefully this raises some awareness and helps to deter people from driving when their abilities are impaired by extreme fatigue.”

The committee voted unanimously to recommend against the bill, which goes to the full Legislature but is all but dead following Wednesday’s vote.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.