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Too Many People Are Asleep at the Wheel

Eight-year-old Ronshay Dugans was on her way to a Boys & Girls Club in Tallahassee in 2008 when her school bus was hit by a cement truck whose driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. Her biography, posted online, tells how her mother, an aunt, and a Florida legislator worked together to produce the Ronshay Dugans Act, which designates the first week of September "Drowsy Driving Prevention Week" in Florida.

Ronshay's family finds comfort in getting the word out about the dangers of driving while tired. And Florida lawmakers have made that danger clear by explaining that driving while drowsy is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

Facts About Drowsy Driving

The two main causes of drowsy driving are lack of sleep and driving at times when you normally would be sleeping. Here are some more facts about driving on little sleep that are worth knowing:

  • Drowsy driving impairs thinking and reaction time.
  • People most prone to drive drowsy are young men, shift workers, commercial drivers, and those with untreated sleep disorders.
  • People who average less than five hours of sleep daily, those who have slept less than seven hours in a 24-hour span, and those who have slept one or more hours less than usual in a 24-hour span are at significantly higher risk of crashing.
  • A person driving after five or less hours of sleep faces the same risk as someone at or slightly above the legal alcohol limit for drivers.
  • People 18 to 29 years old are the most likely to drive drowsy.
  • Men are more likely than women to drive drowsy and almost twice as likely to fall asleep while driving.
  • Adults with children in the household are more likely to drive drowsy.
  • 1 in 10 drivers falls asleep at the wheel in an average year.
  • 1 in 8 crashes that involve hospitalization results from driving drowsy.
  • 1 in 6 deadly traffic accidents involves driving drowsy.

Drowsy Driving Is Hard to Track

A long public campaign against drunken and drugged driving has yielded laws, technology, and common-sense practices that save lives. "Drowsy driving" sounds innocuous, but the numbers are as startling as those that drunken driving produces. Consider the annual tally of 100,000 police-reported crashes, 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and a loss of $12.5 billion in crash-related expenses.

Fully quantifying drowsy driving is hard to do because:

  • There is no test police can use to measure sleepiness.
  • State reporting practices are inconsistent.
  • There is little or no training on the issue for law enforcement officers.
  • Self-reporting is unreliable.
  • Drowsiness often is a factor in crashes involving alcohol and drugs.

Protect Yourself from Drowsy Driving

There are some simple steps drivers can take to avoid getting behind the wheel while fatigued:

  • Don't drive when you are sleep-deprived, especially if you have been awake for more than 24 hours.
  • On long trips, take a break every 100 miles or every two hours.
  • Share the driving in a buddy system when possible.
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages can help.
  • Avoid driving at times when you usually sleep.
  • Do not drive when using medications that cause drowsiness.

Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, and heavy eyelids are warning signs that you should pull over and rest. Unfortunately, the sleepy driver in another car can become your problem, too, and staying alert is all you can do to protect yourself and your passengers from another driver's negligence.

Getting Help After a Drowsy Driving Accident

In Port St. Lucie, West Palm Beach, and the surrounding communities, the auto accident attorneys at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles have a solid reputation of caring and success that has taken more than three decades to build. If you need to pursue compensation after a serious drowsy driving crash, contact us today to see how we can fight for the justice you deserve.


AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

National Sleep Foundation

Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

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