Respironics Inc, Murrysville, Pa, is the leading sponsor of the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) Drowsy Driving Prevention Week™, an awareness campaign debuting this year and taking place November 5-11 across the country.

 “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that nearly 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year,” said John Miclot, president and CEO of Respironics. “Because of these disturbing statistics and the fact that car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the United States, we are fully committed to supporting the NSF’s efforts to increase awareness of this alarming issue.”

To avoid drowsiness when driving—the symptoms of which include trouble focusing, frequent blinking, yawning, heavy eyelids, drifting from lane to lane, and not remembering the last few miles driven—the NSF recommends the following:

•    Get adequate sleep before you drive
•    Allow time for breaks on long trips (about every 100 miles or every 2 hours)
•    Use the buddy system by asking your passenger to stay awake during the drive to help keep you awake and to share the driving responsibilities
•    Do not drink alcohol; and be aware of the potential side effects of any medications you might be taking, because some medications cause drowsiness
•    Consume caffeine (the equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours but should not be relied upon to overcome sleep deprivation)

According to NSF’s 2006 Sleep in America poll, only one in five adolescents (20%) gets an optimal amount of sleep during the week, and more than half (51%) report having driven drowsy in the past year. Other research shows that young people under the age of 25 are by far the largest at-risk group for crashes resulting from drowsy driving.