There are numerous driver behaviors that commonly lead to crashes, including drunk driving, texting while driving and driving aggressively. These actions can and do cause serious and fatal car accidents, and drivers can face criminal penalties as well as a personal injury lawsuit.

But there is one dangerous driver behavior that is often overlooked or underestimated: drowsy driving. Each of us has driven while less-than-alert, and the reduction in driving ability is usually apparent. Unfortunately, it is common for drivers to get behind the wheel while dangerously impaired by drowsiness or fatigue.

According to a recent survey by AAA, about one-third of survey participants admitted that in the previous month, they had driven at least once when they were “so tired that they could barely keep their eyes open.” A separate study by Consumer Reports found that about 20 percent of Americans admitted to driving within seven hours after taking a prescription sleep aid. These drugs specify that they shouldn’t be taken unless the user can sleep for seven to eight hours after ingesting them. AAA has noted that just under 10 percent of crashes in one of its studies could be attributed to sleepy driving.

Although we can’t always avoid driving while tired, we need to understand just how risky this behavior is and to limit our driving according to how sleep-deprived we are. A person who has been awake for 24 hours is as impaired as a drunk driver with a 0.10 percent blood-alcohol concentration.

Drowsy driving is common in truck drivers and others who spend a lot of time behind the wheel. Poor sleeping conditions, sleep apnea and other factors increase the risks and dangers of drowsy driving.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured (or worse) in a car or truck accident, drowsy or fatigued driving may have been a factor. Please discuss your concerns with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you investigate and hold the at-fault driver accountable.