8-year-old killed by driver asleep at the wheel inspires Florida’s “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week”

Ronshay Dugans was killed by a dozing cement truck driver 15 years ago
8-year-old killed by driver asleep at the wheel inspires Florida’s “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week”
Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 7:38 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2023 at 7:39 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - It was a horrific crash. A cement truck plowed into the back of a bus filled with children on their way to the Tallahassee Boys and Girls Club.

8-year-old Ronshay Dugans was killed that day, September 5, 2008.

The State of Florida recognizes Drowsy Driving Prevention Week each year during the first week of September in Ronshay’s honor.

“You think over the years that the pain would go away and lessen, but it doesn’t,” her father Ron Dugans said.

Dugans is a wide receivers coach for the FSU football team. The anniversary of Ronshay’s death often comes the same week as the season opener.

“I got very emotional right before the game,” Dugans said of Sunday’s game against LSU. “The tears just started coming down in the locker room before the game.”

Reminders are flashing on digital message boards along Florida Interstates this week and a sign outside the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in Tallahassee reminds drivers on busy Apalachee Parkway “Don’t Sleep at the Wheel.”

“The first time I saw one of those signs going down the highway, I’m like wow,” Dugans said. “It’s because of my daughter. It makes you feel better because you can help prevent somebody’s family member from losing their life.”

Ronshay’s aunt, Josie West, says it brings great comfort to her family to know this awareness campaign is still having an impact and saving lives 15 years later.

“We miss her smile,” West said. “Please remember Ronshay and get enough sleep before you get behind the wheel.”

Ronshay’s family hopes drivers take the drowsy driving warnings to heart and realize the impact they can have on a family.

“Recognize the signs,” Ron Dugans said. “Frequent yawning, drifting into somebody else’s lane, missing an exit, driving too close to somebody ... these are the signs that you need to pull over and get some coffee, get a hotel, you know because you don’t want to put somebody’s life in danger.”

The DHSMV website offers these tips to prevent drowsy driving:

  • Get enough sleep before you drive. This is the best way to ensure you can maintain alertness while driving.
  • Read the warning label on your medications and do not drive after taking medications that cause drowsiness. Never drive impaired.
  • On long trips take a break every 100 miles or two hours. Allow plenty of time to get to your final destination. If possible, use the “buddy system” so you can change drivers when needed.
  • You can drink caffeine to increase alertness. Keep in mind, turning up the radio, drinking coffee or rolling down the window may help you feel alert for a short period of time, but are not effective ways to maintain alertness to drive safely in the long run.
  • Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep. If you are having difficulty focusing, frequent blinking or heavy eyelids, pull over in a safe place to rest before continuing to drive.
  • The Florida Department of Transportation maintains multiple rest areas, service plazas, truck comfort stations and welcome centers throughout Florida. These are great places to stop and take a break. For more information, visit fdot.gov/maintenance/restareas.
  • If you have been up for 24 hours or more, do not drive. It is not safe for you and others on the road. Take a break and get adequate rest before you travel.

“It’s very important for us,” Dugans said. “We hope nobody’s family has to go through what we’ve gone through.”

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