The California Highway Patrol is leading a weeklong campaign along with the National Sleep Foundation and local police to alert motorists to the perils of driving while sleepy during “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week,” through Nov. 18.

“Fatigued drivers are a safety risk on our roadways,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “If you are tired, reaction time and judgment can become impaired. Tired drivers behave similarly to those who are intoxicated.”

The CHP said drowsy driving caused more than 3,600 collisions, 32 deaths and more than 2,000 injuries in California in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available. NHTSA estimated that falling asleep while driving results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than 100,000 accidents each year. And a survey by the National Sleep Foundation said 60% of adult drivers — about 168 million people — have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy each year, and more than one-third have fallen asleep.

Drowsiness can reduce reaction time, impair judgment and vision, and impact a driver’s attention.

The CHP and the National Sleep Foundation offer the following tips to drivers to reduce their risk of falling asleep behind the wheel:

  • Get enough sleep, at least 7-9 hours, to help maintain alertness.
  • On long road trips, schedule breaks every couple of hours or every 100 miles.
  • When possible, travel with a companion who can take a turn behind the wheel or help keep the driver awake.
  • Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol or medications that cause drowsiness.
  • Consume caffeine as it increases alertness.
  • When tiredness sets in, exit the highway and find a safe location to park and rest.

“With a few simple precautions drivers can help prevent future tragedies from occurring,” Farrow added.