Florida celebrates the “Ronshay Dugans Act” by proclaiming the first week of September as “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.” During this week, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and the Florida Department of Transportation raise public awareness by educating the public about how drowsy driving is as much of impairment as driving while intoxicated. The Ronshay Dugans Act is named after the tragic death of 8 year-old Ronshay, who was killed in 2008 when a driver fell asleep at the wheel of a cement truck in Tallahassee and slammed into the bus taking her to the Boys and Girls Club. The theme “You Snooze, You Lose – Don’t Drive Drowsy,” reminds motorists of our responsibility to be alert and sober when driving.
According to a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), among nearly 150,000 adults aged 18 years, 4.2% reported that they had fallen asleep while driving at least once in the previous 30 days. Citing a 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes (approximately 730 in 2009) and 2.0% of all crashes with nonfatal injuries (approximately 30,000 in 2009) involved drowsy driving. Drowsy driving was defined by these studies as having “nodded off or fallen asleep, even just for a brief moment” while driving.
What is it about drowsy driving that is so dangerous?
Sleepiness can cause the following: impaired reaction time, judgment and vision; problems with information processing and short-term memory; decreased performance, vigilance and motivation; and increased moodiness and aggressive behaviors.
Certain groups of people are more likely to drive drowsy than others.
Higher risk groups of drowsy drivers include the following: males under 25 years old; late shift workers and people with long work hours (working the night shift increases your risk by nearly six times); commercial long-haul truck drivers (at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue.); and people with undiagnosed or untreated disorders (those with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel).
Be aware of the warning signs of driving drowsy.
Should you find yourself feeling sleepy behind the wheel, it’s crucial to stop driving. Be aware of your responsibility to be alert and sober when driving. Also, watch out for these warning signs of drowsy driving:
• Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
• Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
• Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
• Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
• Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
For more warning signs visit the CDC.