Don't Drive Drowsy

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Updated By: Natalie Rubino
September 1st, 2014

A Tallahassee family is making sure drivers stay awake while on the road this Labor Day.

You can't miss the crowd at the rest stop just past exit 196 off of I-10 west.

There's balloons, signs and coffee. It's all to remember the life of Ronshay Dugan which was cut short in 2008.

"She was coming back from school and headed to the Boys and Girls Club when a cement truck rain into the back of the bus," Ronshay's adoptive father, Perry West said.

The driver of that cement truck was driving drowsy.

Shocked and saddened by their adopted daughter's death, the family pushed for legislation to be passed. They succeeded in 2010.

"They designated this week, September 1st through the 7th, drowsy driving week in honor of Ronshay," West said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says about 1,500 people die a year in drowsy driving related accidents. But many estimate the number could be higher.

Ronshay's biological father organized a similar coffee give away, Monday at a rest stop near Tampa.

"It only takes one second to change a whole family's life and that's what we want to prevent with this campaign here. And hopefully it gets bigger and bigger as the years pass," James West, Ronshay's adoptive brother said.

A candlelight vigil will be held on Saturday at Messer Field in Tallahassee at 6pm.

Updated By: Natalie Rubino
August 31st, 2014

A family who lost a child to drowsy driving gathered Sunday to kick off Florida's Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

The West's family adopted daughter Ronshay Dugans was killed after a school bus she was riding on in 2008 was hit by a drowsy driver.

In 2010 State Representative Alan Williams sponsored an act that named the week of September 1st through 7th Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

The official kick off was held Sunday at Faith Christian Family Center, the church where Ronshay was a member.

"This is her life. Everything that we planned and we're doing is part of her life, part of her spirit, keeping it alive," Josie West, Ronshay's Adoptive Mother said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 1,500 car accident deaths a year are cause by drowsy driving.

Family and friends will give away free coffee Monday near Exit 196 on I-10 West as well as an exit near Tampa.

By: Lanetra Bennett
August 29, 2014

Tallahassee, FL - The memory of an 8-year-old Tallahassee girl killed in a crash is being honored through a simple, yet powerful message to help save other lives.

That message is: don't drive drowsy.

"Drowsy Driving Week" is September 1-7. But, family members of Ronshay Dugans--the little girl that the legislation is named after --kicked off the reminder Friday morning as many people are hitting the road for Labor Day Weekend.

Anytime you're driving and you find yourself constantly yawning or having to blast the radio or the AC to stay awake, they say pull over.

The Florida Highway Patrol says there are rest areas for a reason, so use them. "Driving while tired or sleepy is just as dangerous as driving drunk or drugged, or distracted." Says, CAPT Mark Welch with FHP.

Troopers and supporters held a press conference Friday to remind drivers of the dangers of driving while drowsy, by discussing the Ronshay Dugans Act. The State Legislature passed the act in 2010 to designate the first week of September as "Drowsy Driving Week".

Eight year-old Ronshay Dugans was killed in 2008 in Tallahassee when a cement truck crashed into the school bus she was riding in. The truck driver was said to have been sleepy.

Ronshay's aunt, Josie Dugans West, says, "We do have our ups and we do have our downs when it comes to missing her. But, every time I'm working with her driving drowsy event, it gives me more encouragement in spirit to keep pushing."

Authorities say more than 1,500 people die and 71,000 are injured every year because of drowsy driving. But, troopers say they believe the numbers are higher. CAPT Welch says, "In a crash investigation, we have things that we can do to detect drugs and alcohol and things of that nature. But, there's no test to detect a drowsy driver. It pretty much has to be self-reporting."

Ronshay was on her way to the Boys and Girls Club after school when she was killed. The area director, Kacy Dennis, remembers the vibrant child well. He says, "She loved to dance. She loved our dance room. We had a program that we called Wild Out Wednesdays where the kids would come in and just have the opportunity to dance. That was Ronshay's favorite activities."

Events are planned for "Drowsy Driving Week" Monday, family and supporters will give out free coffee to drivers at the rest area on I-10 west of exit 196 in Leon County. Ronshay's dad--former FSU football player and USF Coach Ron Dugans--will hold an awareness event in Tampa.

For more on the scheduled events, please see the bottom of the press release below. A link is provided.


News Release: FDOT
August 28, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – You fight to keep your eyes opened, your head up. You have stopped for coffee because you just have to get to your destination as soon as possible. Then before you have time to react, you are wide-awake enough to see oncoming traffic, since you’ll have veered into it!

All too often this scenario is real on Florida’s roadways. To prevent crashes caused by driver fatigue and save lives, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Department of Transportation are teaming up with lawmakers and safety advocates during Florida’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week on Sept. 1st – 7th.

State Rep. Alan Williams, District 8, sponsored the legislation that created the Ronshay Dugans Act in 2010, which designates the first week of September as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

“Ronshay lost her life after a driver crashed into the bus that she was riding,” said Representative Williams. “Her family shares their story about their loss so other families might be spared this tragedy. Drowsy driving can be eliminated with simple planning and a conscious decision to pull over when you know you are tired. We want everyone traveling Florida roads to arrive safely at their destinations.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that each year driver fatigue results in 100,000 police-reported crashes, 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. However, the full impact that sleepy drivers have is unknown because crashes caused by driver fatigue are under-reported as they often rely on a driver to self-report.

According to NHTSA, drivers in the following three groups pose the highest risk of falling asleep while driving.

  • Young people (ages 16 to 29), especially males

  • Shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night or working long or irregular hours

  • People with untreated sleep apnea syndrome and narcolepsy

  • Regardless of a driver’s vocation, age, sex, health condition or other characteristics, any driver can become overconfident and fall victim to drowsy driving. Measures that drivers can take to stay alert behind the steering wheel are:
  • Catch some Z’s. A good night’s sleep goes a long way to prevent drowsy driving. Most adults need seven to nine hours, and most teenagers need 8.5 to 9.5 hours to maintain proper alertness during the day.

  • Bring a buddy. By having another driver on board, you have someone to share the driving responsibilities and help keep one another alert.

  • Take a break. Stopping to get out and stretch your legs every few hours or even to catch a quick nap will help you recharge your battery.

  • Drive sober. Alcohol and driving never mix. Also, heed prescription medication labels and any warnings that say they may make you drowsy.

  • Fatigue and drowsiness can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, which not only puts you and your passengers in danger, but also it places everyone else on the road with you at risk. Check out the Drowsy Driving Awareness Week webpage at This LINK for more information.


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