The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says that over 3,100 crashes in 2020 were caused by motorists who were driving while drowsy.
The data is part of a new release from the FLHSMV to commemorate “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week” in order to remind motorists of the dangers of drowsy driving.
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. The department uses the week to stress the importance of getting adequate rest before getting behind the wheel, and taking breaks in order to remain alert and avoid entering a drowsy state.
“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.
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 6 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 September 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.
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.
Visit FLHSMV’s drowsy driving webpage for more information and shareable resources to help spread the word about drowsy driving prevention.