A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 37% of Americans admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. Sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases the risk of crashing.

That is why the Florida Legislature designated the first week of September every year as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. Gov. Scott signed a formal proclamation this year for the week to run September 1 to 7, which includes the Labor Day holiday. AAA projects 33 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend and 2.6% more Floridians will travel this year.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Department of Transportation are teaming up with lawmakers and safety advocates during the week to get out the message of the dangers of drowsy driving.

“Being alert behind the wheel is critical to highway safety,” said DHSMV Executive Director Julie L. Jones. “Studies show the fatality rate is higher for crashes where a driver falls asleep.”

“It is important for everyone behind the wheel to understand the dangers of drowsy driving,” said FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad. “Making the decision to pull into a rest area when fatigued can save lives.”

The sponsor of the bill designating the week, Representative Alan Williams, District 8, said, “Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. We must do all we can to raise awareness of the dangers of driving drowsy to help save lives.”

Williams sponsored the bill in memory of 8-year-old Ronshay Dugans, who was killed in 2008 when her bus was hit by the driver of a cement truck who fell asleep at the wheel.

Ronshay Dugan’s aunt, Josie West, said she thinks of Ronshay every day and hopes the week prompts people to think about their level of alertness before getting behind the wheel. “Ronshay was gone in an instant when the drowsy truck driver nodded off. His decision to drive while extremely tired tragically took her life.”