In 2008, 8-year-old Ronshay Dugans was killed when a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and caused a Florida bus accident involving the school bus on which Dugans was traveling. Dugans’ family lobbied to change legislation in Florida to help prevent drowsy driving. Working with Florida state representative Alan Williams, the Dugans family has helped pass the Ronshay Dugans Act to combat fatigued driving.
As part of the act, the first week of every September will be designated as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week in Florida. The bill was passed by Florida legislature and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist in June. Morton Plant Mease Hospital, the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have joined together to help promote Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 50% of drivers admit to fatigued driving in the past year. About a third of drivers admit that they drive while fatigued at least once a month. Another 30% of drivers admit they have fallen asleep at the wheel and 1% of drivers have been in an accident or a near accident while driving drowsy.
Driving drowsy is a serious problem in Florida and across the country. Even falling asleep for only a second – a period of sleep a drowsy driver might not even notice – means that a driver is traveling 88 feet while asleep (assuming the driver is traveling 60 mph). 88 feet is plenty of space to cause a Florida pedestrian accident or a serious accident. The problem is even more serious for truck drivers, since large commercial trucks take longer to stop. If a truck driver falls asleep for a second and travels for 88 feet, once he or she awakes, the driver will not be able to brake in time to prevent an accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 100,000 traffic accidents are caused by fatigued driving each year. These accidents cause 71, 000 injuries, 1,550 fatalities, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in losses. Some experts think that drivers between 18 and 24 are especially at risk. They already have a high rate of accidents and are statistically more likely to stay up late and sleep fewer hours.
Shift workers are especially vulnerable to car accidents caused by fatigued driving. Shift workers tend to get interrupted sleep, tend to change their sleep hours, and tend to fight their natural body cycle – all risk factors for sleep problems and drowsiness. Unfortunately, commercial truck drivers often are shift workers, driving late at night or during unusual work hours in order to make deliveries on time. This can make commercial truck drivers especially vulnerable to collisions.