Latest statistics from the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety show that 21% of fatal road accidents in the USA involved a drowsy driver and according to a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine ‘drowsy driving' is as dangerous as drink driving.

The issue is not limited to the USA. In the UK, a survey by road safety charity, Brake! found that one in eight drivers had fallen asleep for up to 30 seconds while driving and 86% of UK drivers would not stop to rest if they felt sleepy behind the wheel.

Driving when tired has similar side effects to drink driving, including feeling lethargic, slower reactions to potential hazards and difficulty staying between the lines on road markings. However, compared with drink driving, there is far less public awareness about the effects of driving while tired, despite it being the cause of more than 72,000 road accidents in the UK during 2013 alone.

David Robinson, a road accident solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, said: "Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is clearly extremely dangerous and against the law, but this American research shows that driving when you are tired can have the same effect.

"Despite enforced breaks for HGV drivers because of the danger of tiredness and the clear statistics in the US and the UK showing the dangers of getting behind the wheel if you are tired there is a lack of public awareness amongst private vehicle drivers about its contribution to many road accidents.

"The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is seeking to bring this issue to the forefront in the US, and it is high time for a serious discussion about the dangers of driving when you are tired in the UK too."