We are all familiar with the hazards of drinking and driving or even texting and driving, but many people underestimate the dangers of drowsy driving. Each year, drowsy driving accounts for about 100,000 car crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Drowsy driving contributes to an estimated 9.5% of all car accidents, according to AAA.
Florida’s Ronshay Dugans Act
In the state of Florida, in partnership with the Florida Department of Highway Safety Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), September 5-11 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.
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.
“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
FLHSMV ESTIMATES THAT
3,991 REPORTED CAR CRASHES IN FLORIDA
INVOLVED DROWSY DRIVERS LAST YEAR.
Drowsy Driving Laws In America
Only two states (Arkansas and New Jersey) have laws directly classifying drowsy driving as a punishable offense.
California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, and Maine have adopted driver’s license restrictions for motorists with untreated sleep disorders.
Massachusetts, California, Alabama, Florida, and Texas all have weeks or days dedicated to spreading awareness of drowsy driving and how to identify the signs of driving while drowsy.
For more information on drowsy driving state laws, consult the full list of legal resources available at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Drowsy Driving Vs. Drunk Driving
Studies show being awake for more than 20 hours results in impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, the legal limit in all US states.
Drowsy driving killed 795 people in 2017.
In 2017, nearly 2,000 people died in alcohol-related accidents.
Even if you aren’t drunk, driving while tired can slow your reaction times and thought processes enough to cause a car accident.
How Often Do People Drive While Drowsy?
About 27% of drivers report driving while being so tired they have difficulty keeping their eyes open (AAA)
1 In 25 Drivers Admit To Falling Asleep Behind The Wheel (CDC)
47% OF THOSE WHO HAVE
DID SO ON A TRIP
LASTING ONE HOUR
OR LESS (NHTSA)
When Does Drowsy Driving Happen?
Most drowsy driving crashes occur between midnight and 6am or later on in the afternoon when the body regulates sleep (NHTSA)
Drowsy driving crashes often only involve a single passenger running off the road (NHTSA)
Drowsy driving crashes are more common on highways and rural roads (NHTSA)
Drowsy Driving Behavior By Length Of Drive
Respondents explain when they’ve ever displayed these drowsy driving behaviors.
Driver Fatigue Warning Signs
Specific drowsiness indicators signal that you should refrain from driving until you have had more sleep. However, driver fatigue may not always show itself in the same form, making it harder for some to detect.
Key warning signs of drowsy driving include:
1. You can’t seem to keep your eyes focused.
2. You can’t keep your eyes open and keep blinking.
3. Your head suddenly feels unbearably heavy.
These symptoms are particularly dangerous because they are so common, but it is critical that you do not ignore your body’s signals that it is tired.
Who Are The At-Risk Groups For Drowsy Driving Car Accidents In Florida?
Drowsy driving can happen to anyone, but it does affect some groups more than others.
These drivers that are at a higher risk of drowsy driving include:
Young And Inexperienced Drivers
Teens and young drivers have had less time on the road, so their skills are not developed behind the wheel. Younger drivers are also more likely to drive during late hours for work or social reasons, making them more susceptible to drowsy driving.
Shift Workers And Those With Extended Hours
Shift and night workers are often subject to long hours on the clock, and when it comes time to clock out, they are typically exhausted. A long drive home is the last thing they need, but many still trudge to their cars out of obligation and routine anyway. Those who work night, rotating, or double shifts have six times the risk of drowsy driving than other types of workers. Professionals who often work grueling shifts can include doctors, nurses, pilots, police officers and firefighters.
Those who drive for a living put more miles on the road than the average commuter. Commercial drivers are also at much higher risk of drowsy driving, given the long hours and unforgiving deadlines that many commercial drivers face.
Those who travel the country regularly for business are at particular risk of drowsy driving, as they are often subjected to jet lag, changing time zones as often as ZIP codes. If you travel extensively for work, it can be challenging to get enough sleep to be safe on the road.
People With Sleep Conditions
Drowsy driving can be an everyday battle for drivers with sleep disorders. Narcolepsy or insomnia can leave some drivers feeling depleted and tired during the day, while those with untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are categorically more at-risk of drowsy driving. Some medications can also be counter-effective, making drivers sleepy when they need to be focused behind the wheel.
The Consequences Of Drowsy Driving In Florida
The most expensive cost of drowsy driving is the human toll that it takes each year. With over 100,000 crashes attributed to drowsy driving, future accidents can easily be avoided with just a little effort.
The consequences of drowsy driving in Florida can be pretty severe. Assuming you survive your car accident in Florida, you could still walk away with significant injuries that could require months or even years of medical care. You could also suffer from long-lasting cognitive or physical impairments that can impact your performance and physical health.
In an August 2016 report, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates that the annual societal cost of drowsy driving is $109 billion. Additionally, the study notes that property damages are not even included in this cost.
Prevention: How To Stay Awake While Driving In Florida
1. Drive at times you are usually awake.
2. Take your time and don’t rush to get to your destination.
3. Eat a low-sugar, healthy diet before your drive.
4. Take energy-boosting vitamins.
5. Drink caffeine.
6. If you are sleepy, a 100-calorie snack may wake you up.
7. If you can’t make it, a 20-minute nap should suffice. That’s what rest stops are for!
“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.”
What To Do If You Are In A Car Accident While Traveling In Florida
1. Call the police and file a report
2. Swap information (including any insurance info they may have)
3. Gather details
4. Take pictures
5. Gather contact information of any witnesses
6. Seek medical care immediately for any injuries – no matter how minor you think they might be.
Get more helpful information on what to do after an accident here at our “Car Wreck Checklist” >
About Zarzaur Law, P.A.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board-Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since2007. OUR AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, MedicalMalpractice, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more.
Licensed in Alabama and Florida. www.zarzaurlaw.com
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If you’ve been the victim of an auto accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe, or by requesting a free case review through our website.