Two points of interest involving drivers in Pennsylvania hit home with residents from all areas of the commonwealth.

First, this week in November has been designated Drowsy Driving Prevention Week and state transportation officials are reminding drivers to stay alert behind the wheel. Given the earlier arrival of nightfall, drivers are urged to pull over or postpone their travel if they feel drowsy, since it can cause slower reaction time, poor judgment and impaired vision.

This is critical advice, given the fact that between 2005 and 2009 in this state, there was an average of nearly 2,300 drowsy driving-related crashes a year.

PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. explained that closing your eyes, even for a few seconds, can cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle.

"Driving drowsy, fatigued, or exhibiting sleeping behaviors are among the top 10 reasons that insurance companies note cause auto accidents and their related claims," said acting Insurance Commissioner Robert L. Pratter. "Studies show the risk of an accident doubles after just four hours on the road and drivers often fail to recognize drowsiness early enough."

While all drivers are cautioned on the risk of falling asleep at the wheel, some who tend to drive late at night – shift workers, business travelers, commercial drivers and young drivers – are at higher risk.

Here are some tips to avoid falling asleep while driving:

Ÿ Avoid alcohol or medication that may cause drowsiness;

Ÿ Get enough sleep before going on a long drive;

Ÿ Stop for breaks, resting for 10 minutes after every 100 miles of travel;

Ÿ Get safely off the road if you feel sleepy; and

Ÿ Always wear your seat belt.

On a separate note, members and veterans of the United States Armed Forces can now proudly display their service with military license plates offered by PennDOT.

By selecting the "Military License Plates" link under the "Military Personnel/Veterans Information Center" on PennDOT's Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.state.pa.us [1], one can find a complete listing of military license plates.

Applications for these specialty license plates must be requested through the approved organization's local representative and a proof of eligibility is required.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [2]