Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sunshine State Asks Sleepy Drivers to Stay Off the Roads

The state of Florida's first "Drowsy Driving Awareness Week” takes place September 6-10. Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law the “RonShay Dugans Act.” It aims to create greater awareness about the dangers of drowsy driving, making Florida the 18th state to do so.

The definition of drowsy driving varies from state to state, but every state's definition revolves around the concept of a fatigued driver.

Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) can cause impaired reaction time, memory problems, mood changes and driving accidents. It can increase a person’s risk for deadly motor vehicle accidents by 15 times.

Motor vehicle accidents due to “drowsy driving” account for $48 billion in medical costs each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says drowsy driving is responsible for about 100,000 car crashes a year.

Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Current legislation recommends that commercial drivers get screened and treated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a common cause of EDS. But there are many non-commercial drivers who do not know that they have OSA.

Florida’s drowsy driving week honors an eight-year old Tallahassee girl. ABC reported that RonShay Dugans was going to the Boys and Girls Club in a bus in 2008 when a drowsy driver behind the wheel of a cement truck slammed into the back of the bus and killed her.

Chief Leroy Smith of the Florida Highway Patrol told ABC that it's no different than driving under the influence. “With regard to drowsy driving, it is just as dangerous as drunk driving just as alcohol and drugs could impair one’s normal faculties, so could sleepiness and drowsiness. It could also slow one’s reaction time.”

RonShay’s adoptive father, Perry West, said RonShay’s legacy is an important reminder for all drivers. “We are reminded every day when we get up in the morning of just what we lost and so with this we are also mindful of the price that was paid to get this legislation passed.”

In 2003, New Jersey was the first state to pass a law aimed specifically at fatal accidents involving sleepy motorists - estimated at about 1,500 a year nationwide. Such drivers can now be charged with vehicular homicide. That offense is punishable in New Jersey by up to 10years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Learn more about the risks of drowsy driving here.

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.