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Friday, December 2, 2022

Drowsy drivers caused nearly 4,000 crashes in 2021 according to FLHSMV

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) stated that nearly 4,000 crashes in 2021 were caused by motorists who were operating a vehicle while drowsy.

The data is part of a new release from 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.

“Drowsy driving poses more of a threat than most realize,” said Terry L. Rhodes, FLHSMV Executive Director. “Missing just a couple hours of sleep can significantly increase a driver’s crash risk, putting the lives of those on our roadways in danger. No matter how far your destination may be, driving drowsy is never worth the risk.”

According to preliminary data from FLHSMV, there were approximately 3,991 reported crashes in 2021 where at least one driver was asleep or fatigued.

Colonel Gene Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), stated, “Whether you are driving a vehicle with two wheels or 18, driving while drowsy is a poor decision that can lead to deadly consequences.”

“FHP strongly encourages all drivers to be alert when operating a motor vehicle and to take a break if they are having difficulty focusing, are yawning repeatedly, or are drifting into other lanes. Let’s all do our part to keep Florida roadways safe,” added Spaulding.

Throughout the entire month of September, FLHSMV will be urging drivers to safely pull off the road and take a break if they are having difficulty focusing, yawning repeatedly, or drifting into other lanes. Fatigue slows thought processes and reaction time, affects judgement and vision, impairs the senses and abilities, and can cause micro-sleeping (“nodding off”) or falling completely asleep, making it very dangerous to drive.

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 that she was riding. In 2010, Florida’s Ronshay Dugans Act was established 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.

Ron Dugans, Ronshay’s father, said, “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 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. We want Ronshay’s story to touch anyone that gets behind the wheel fatigued or drowsy. God bless.”

Josie West, Ronshay’s aunt, stated, “I pray that Drowsy Driving Prevention Week brings awareness to anyone who gets behind the wheel that didn’t get enough sleep. This week brings comfort to us letting us know Ronshay’s spirit lives on when someone hears her story. If you have to turn the air up or drink coffee to stay awake, this is a sign of drowsy driving. Our family is asking motorists this week, and every week, to rest before traveling, and if you are sleepy, utilize rest stops.”

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 that motorists can take to prevent drowsy driving:

  • Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep. Get enough rest before you drive.
  • On long trips, take a break every 100 miles or two hours. Allow plenty of time to travel to your destination.
  • If you start feeling tired while driving, pull over in a safe place and take a nap if you can.
  • Use the “buddy system” and switch drivers when needed.
  • Read the warning information on all medications you take. Do not operate a motor vehicle after taking medications which cause drowsiness.

For more information, along with shareable resources to help spread the word about drowsy driving prevention, please visit FLHSMV’s Drowsy Driving Prevention webpage.