‘Ronshay’ act targets drowsy driving

Jan 22, 2009

Tallahassee Democrat–January 22, 2009

By TaMaryn Waters


A new state bill has been proposed with the hopes of bringing more awareness about the dangers of driving while fatigued.

In addition, two more civil lawsuits have been filed against Marchaun Andrews, a driver for Couch Ready Mix-USA, his employer, and RBC Bank, which owns the cement-mixing truck that overturned onto a school-bus Sept. 8 at Capital Circle Southeast and Orange Avenue.

The crash caused the death of 8-year-old Ronshay Dugans and non-life threatening injuries to other students.

The ‘Ronshay Dugans Act’ was filed Tuesday and is sponsored by State Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee. Although the bill’s language has not been finalized, it currently dictates a need for a Drowsy Driving Prevention Week and more public education from agencies like the Florida Department of Transportation.

Josie West, Ronshay’s adopted mother, feels some level of comfort about the bill. But her hope is it may save someone’s life.

“Driving fatigued is the same as driving drunk for me,” West said. “It’s serious.”

Williams, who was elected in November, said he wanted this to be one of the first bills he sponsored.

“For me, it was a way of honoring her and hopefully preventing this from ever happening again,” he said.

The parents of Ronshay have filed a civil lawsuit against Andrews and Couch Ready Mix. The two additional civil suits were filed last month by Cathy Branton and Andrea Mobley, who each had a child on the bus who was injured, according to court documents.

The criminal lawsuit is still in the works. According to court documents, Andrews was seen by witnesses speeding and driving erratically just before the crash. Investigators have said speeding and fatigue were factors in the crash.

Andrews, a Monticello native, was arrested Sept. 30 on one count of vehicular homicide, one count of reckless operation of a vehicle causing serious bodily injury and 11 counts of reckless operation of a vehicle causing damage to a person or property. If convicted, he could face 31 years in prison.

The initial traffic and the traffic homicide reports are not complete yet, said Jim Messer, who is handling the civil suits for all the families.

He wouldn’t go into details about the children’s injuries.

Bill Corry, the attorney representing Couch Ready Mix, said “We don’t know anything for sure yet. We don’t want people out there driving tired, sick or having other issues.”