In my other articles I have discussed different disabilities and how they affect transportation and student evacuations. This article will take a different approach. It is a sad story shared with me by a little girl’s grandmother.

On Sept. 5, 2008, a school bus that belonged to a Boys and Girls Club was stopped facing southbound on Capital Circle Southeast in Tallahassee, Fla. Eight-year-old Ronshay Dugans (the woman’s granddaughter) was sitting in the last seat of the school bus on the driver’s side.

Every Friday night, Ronshay and her adopted father watched movies together, but Ronshay did not make it home that Friday night.

Witnesses report that the bus was stopped at a red light when a Volvo cement truck suddenly swerved, striking the rear of the bus. The amount of force and weight from the cement truck crushed the rear end of the bus and caused the front end of the bus to be lifted up. Two other vehicles were also involved in the accident. The impact of the crash resulted in the death of Ronshay.

Today, people will immediately think that the truck driver must have been on his cell phone or texting. But that isn’t the reason for the accident. The truck driver was drowsy when he got behind the wheel of the truck and slammed into the back of the bus.

Jean Zimmerman is supervisor of occupational and physical therapy for the School District of Palm Beach County (Fla.).

Jean Zimmerman is supervisor of occupational and physical therapy for the School District of Palm Beach County (Fla.).

If you think driving drowsy is no big deal, listen to Leroy Smith’s view on the issue. Smith is a former official with the Florida Highway Patrol.

“It is just as dangerous as drunk driving; just as alcohol and drugs could impair one’s normal faculties, so could sleeplessness and drowsiness. It could also slow one’s reaction time,” Smith said in 2010, according to 10News.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that drowsy driving is responsible for about 100,000 car crashes per year.

Ronshay’s family did not let her death be in vain. Ronshay’s aunt, Josie West, worked with state Rep. Alan Williams to champion legislation, called the Ronshay Dugans Act, which was signed into law in June 2010 by then Gov. Charlie Crist. The act designates the first week of September as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week in Florida.

Ronshay’s grandmother is a bus driver for the School District of Palm Beach County, where I work. She holds no ill feelings toward or grudges against the truck driver — she only wishes that he realized the dangers of driving when drowsy.

Other states have passed statutes and resolutions regarding drowsy driving, and others have considered legislation on the topic. Although legislation won’t necessarily change everyone’s driving habits, it might change some people’s habits. 

We must all work together to get these types of measures passed to make drivers aware of the danger of driving when drowsy, and hopefully prevent further injuries and deaths.