Reading the police blotters the last few weeks has been an eye-opener for us about the need for, er, shuteye. In just the last month, several people have been involved in crashes caused by their falling asleep behind the wheel of a car.

According to the Maine Department of Transportation’s Web site, drowsy drivers cause around 700 crashes each year in the state. That’s 700 entirely avoidable accidents. The effects of driving when one is tired are similar to those from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, says DOT, affecting the driver’s ability to control the vehicle, delaying reaction times and impairing judgment.

Some symptoms of excessive fatigue are: being unable to remember the last few miles driven, tailgating, missing traffic signs, having to keep jerking the vehicle into the lane, and relying on loud music, rolling the window down or caffeine to stay awake.

Drivers of all ages are affected, with those between the ages of 16 and 24 being involved in 35 percent of fatigue-related crashes and fatalities nationally, DOT says.

Of course, it’s best to be well-rested before driving, and on long trips it is wise to have a companion who can spot the signs of fatigue and share the driving. But if one has to drive when fatigued, even a few miles, pulling off the road to a safe area and taking a short nap — five to 20 minutes — can make a great difference in one’s ability to drive safely.

As the days grow shorter and we are all driving under riskier winter conditions, remember — it’s worth arriving five or 10 minutes later to take a quick nap and arrive safely.