FLHSMV Urges Drivers to Take a Break to Drive Awake
~ September 5-11 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week in Florida. ~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) launched its annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week campaign to educate the public regarding drowsy driving prevention on Florida’s roads. Each year, the first week of September is recognized in Florida as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week in honor of Ronshay Dugans, who was tragically killed by a drowsy driver in 2008.
“Drowsy driving poses more of a threat than most realize,” said FLHSMV Executive Director, Terry L. Rhodes. “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.”
FLHSMV estimates that 3,991 reported crashes in Florida involved drowsy drivers last year.
“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 Colonel Gene Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “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.”
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 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:
“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.” –Ron Dugans, father of Ronshay Dugans
“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.” –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:
- 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.
FLHSMV is joined by partners across the state in honoring Ronshay Dugans and spreading the messages of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week:
“Florida Trucking Association is proud to partner with FLHSMV and FHP to remind the motoring public of the dangers of drowsy driving,” said Alix Miller, president and CEO of Florida Trucking Association. “It’s important to learn the warning signs of drowsy driving – including yawning, missing your exit, or drifting from your lane – and make it a priority to take a break if you are not fully alert.”
“The mission of Florida Sheriffs is to protect the citizens we proudly serve. This involves not only crime prevention but traffic safety as well. On behalf of the 67 Sheriffs of Florida, I wholeheartedly endorse the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ Drowsy Driving Prevention campaign this September,” said Sheriff Al Nienhuis, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association.
“The Florida Police Chiefs Association stands with our partners in public safety to remind drivers that September is Drowsy Driving Prevention month,” said Fellsmere Police Department Chief Keith Touchberry, President of the Florida Chiefs Association. “Don’t get behind the wheel if you’re feeling drowsy, and be aware that some medications can make you drowsy. This way, all of us can play our part in making our roads safer and saving lives.”
“You can’t control what other drivers do, but you can control being drowsy behind the wheel,” said Michele Harris, Florida Public Affairs Director 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 Drowsy Driving Prevention webpage for more information and shareable resources to help spread the word about drowsy driving prevention.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education, and enforcement. Florida is leading the way to A Safer Florida through the efficient and professional execution of its core mission: the issuance of driver licenses, vehicle tags and titles and operation of the Florida Highway Patrol. To learn more about FLHSMV and the services offered, visit https://www.flhsmv.gov, follow us on Twitter @FLHSMV, find us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram.
Dave Kerner, Executive Director