Sunday marked the start of "Drowsy Driving Prevention Week," during which the California Highway Patrol and other state agencies will remind motorists to stay alert while driving.
The annual campaign provides public education about the risks of driving and countermeasures to improve safety on the road, according to a department statement.
"Many people do not understand the dangers associated with driving drowsy," said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. "This is our opportunity to educate the public on the potential life-threatening consequences of driving while fatigued behind the wheel.''
The CHP recommends planning ahead to reduce the risk of drowsy driving and also having adequate sleep to maintain proper alertness during the day.
Drivers should also schedule route breaks during long trips -- every 100 miles or two hours, according to the department statement.
Other tips include 20 minutes of napping to help clear fatigue. Also, caffeine can improve wakefulness.
"While most people are aware of the dangers of drunk or distracted driving, many don't realize that sleepiness also slows reaction times, decreases awareness, impairs judgement and increases your risk of crashing, all similar to the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol," said Russia Chavis, Acting Director of the Office of Traffic Safety.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and contributing to 1,550 deaths. Preliminary data for 2011 from the CHP's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System indicates more than 1,600 people lost their lives in crashes where fatigue was a factor on California's roadways.