TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) is leading the Drowsy Driving Prevention Week campaign to remind motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving and to get adequate request before getting behind the wheel, to take breaks to remain alert, and to never drive drowsy. Florida recognizes the first week of September as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week in honor of Ronshay Dugans, who was tragically killed by a drowsy driver in 2008.
“When a driver is fatigued, their reaction time, judgment, and vision are all affected – making for an extremely dangerous situation for the driver and those around them,” said FLHSMV Executive Director, Terry L. Rhodes. “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is a sobering but important reminder that drowsy driving can have deadly consequences and is 100% preventable. Remember: Take a Break, Don’t Drive Drowsy.”
According to FLHSMV preliminary data, in 2020, there were 3,129 crashes in Florida where at least one driver was asleep or fatigued – resulting in 114 serious bodily injuries (SBIs) and six fatalities. Overall, the number of crashes, SBIs, and fatalities have decreased since 2015. Notably, according to preliminary data, the number of drowsy driving fatalities has dropped 29% over the last five years.
“Driving a motor vehicle while fatigued is unsafe. Whether you are driving a vehicle with two wheels or 18, driving while drowsy is a poor decision that can lead to deadly consequences,” said Lieutenant Colonel Troy Thompson, Acting Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “The Florida Highway Patrol encourages all drivers to be fully alert when operating a motor vehicle and to park in a safe location and take a break if they are having difficulty focusing, yawning repeatedly, or drifting into other lanes.”
On Sept. 5, 2008, 8-year-old Ronshay Dugans lost her life after a cement truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and hit the school bus she was riding. Florida’s Ronshay Dugans Act was established in 2010 by the Florida Legislature, recognizing the first week in September as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week in her honor.
Ronshay’s family continues to keep her spirit alive in hopes that another family does not have to endure a similar loss:
“Each Labor Day weekend, my family and I call for awareness about drowsy driving across the state and countrywide to ensure that no one else experiences the pain of losing a loved one. We are a close family. We have stuck together for the last 13 years and have continued Ronshay’s legacy by promoting the Drowsy Driving campaign.
“We are a praying family and we have come to the realization that everything happens for a reason. We will continue to fight for this very important cause, because Ronshay’s spirit lives within all of us. Saving lives is the goal of our campaign. The Dugans family will not stop promoting Drowsy Driving Prevention Week until laws are put into place to prevent drowsy driving all over the country. We just want to make sure everyone is educated on just how serious the matter is. Again, no family should have to experience the pain of losing a loved one. God bless.” -Ron Dugans, father of Ronshay Dugans
“Our families continue to struggle with the loss of Ronshay and we think about her especially when we see her friends she would’ve grown up with. This week is a celebration of Ronshay’s life. Our family wants everyone to stop and think twice before getting behind the wheel if they are drowsy. We ask everyone to remember Ronshay by not driving drowsy, utilizing rest areas, and getting rest before hitting the road.” -Josie West, Aunt of Ronshay Dugans
Sleep loss or fatigue can cause symptoms similar to drunk and drugged driving. It is always important to rest before driving. FLHSMV offers the following additional measures you can take to prevent drowsy driving:
• Get enough sleep before you get behind the wheel. This is the best way to ensure you can maintain alertness while driving.
• Read the warning label on your medications and do not drive after taking medications that cause drowsiness.
• On long trips, take a break every 100 miles or two hours. Allow plenty of time to get to your destination.
• Use the “buddy system” so you can change drivers when needed.
• Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep. If you are having difficulty focusing, frequent blinking or heavy eyelids, pull over in a safe place to rest before continuing to drive.
• The Florida Department of Transportation maintains multiple rest areas, service plazas, truck comfort stations, and welcome centers throughout Florida. There are great places to stop and take a break. For more information, visit their webpage at https://www.fdot.gov/maintenance/restareas.shtm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.
FLHSMV is joined by partners across the state in honoring Ronshay Dugans and spreading the messages of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week:
“Drowsy drivers put everyone on the road at risk. When you are drowsy, your reaction time slows, your judgment is impaired, and the risk of being in a crash increases,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E. “Always make rest a priority, and stay alert behind the wheel to ensure everyone on the road can arrive safely to their destination.”
“It’s more important to get home safely than get home quickly,” said Alix Miller, President and CEO of Florida Trucking Association. “Driving while drowsy could not only impact you and your loved ones, but other motorists on the road. If you’re feeling tired, take some time to rest before driving again.”
“In today’s world, so many of us are regularly tired. We lead busy lives. But driving when you are drowsy endangers not only yourself but those around you,” said Daytona Beach Shores Police Chief Stephan Dembinsky, President of the Florida Chiefs Association. “The impact of driving while drowsy has proven to have tragic results. If you are feeling drowsy don’t get behind the wheel or simply pull over. If you are taking medications that can make you sleepy or if you must drive between midnight and 6 a.m., please be aware of the signs of drowsiness and take preventative steps.”
“The mission of our Florida sheriffs is to protect the citizens that we proudly serve. This involves not only crime prevention but traffic safety as well. On behalf of our Florida sheriffs, I fully endorse the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ Drowsy Driving Prevention campaign this September,” said Sheriff Bobby McCallum, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association.
“Nearly one out of every four drivers admit to having driven while being so tired that it was difficult to keep their eyes open,” said Michele Harris, Traffic Safety Consultant for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Take steps to stay alert because it could save your life as well as the lives of innocent motorists.”
Visit FLHSMV’s website flhsmv.gov/drowsy for more information and shareable resources to help spread the word about drowsy driving prevention.