Nearly all of us have experienced the tiring effects of a bad night’s sleep, a long day at the office, or chronic stress. If we’re lucky, we find a burst of energy to help us make it through the day. But for many Bostonians, fatigue never really goes away, including when they’re behind the wheel of a car.
Tired drivers can pose an extreme danger to other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists on the streets of Boston, from Storrow Drive to Dorchester Avenue. In this blog post, we examine the problem of car driver fatigue in the Hub, including its causes and how a skilled Boston car accident injury attorney can secure justice and financial compensation for victims when a drowsy Boston driver causes a crash.
The Epidemic of Driver Fatigue
Healthcare professionals widely agree that most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly to maintain good health. But studies have found that a significant majority of us do not get that much sleep. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), research shows that nearly seventy percent (70 percent) of Americans get less than the optimal amount of sleep at least once a month and that as many as eleven percent (11 percent) fail to get the recommended amount of sleep regularly.
That’s roughly one-in-ten adults getting less sleep than they need. And it means that at least one out of every ten drivers you encounter while driving in and around Boston feels over-tired and likely suffers from fatigue. And troublingly, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), teen drivers in the Bay State report especially high levels of drowsiness behind the wheel. In a survey, one-in-eight high school-age drivers reported falling asleep while driving in the past 30 days.
Fatigue Causes Dangerous Driver Impairment
Here’s why that’s such a problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), fatigue impairs driving abilities as much as intoxication. That’s right. A drowsy driver poses as much of a danger to the public as a drunk driver.
Overtired car drivers suffer from:
- Slowed reaction times when confronted with hazards that require a sudden stop or evasive maneuver;
- Diminished motor coordination that makes it difficult to steer or keep a car in its lane;
- Difficulty judging speed and distance, which results in dangerous driving behaviors like driving too fast or tailgating;
- Poor decision-making when deciding, for example, when to pull into traffic or whether to pass another vehicle; and
- Blurred vision and tunnel vision that blinds a driver to other vehicles on the road and potential hazards ahead.
As with drunk driving, just one of these impairments can substantially increase the risk of an accident. The risk only multiplies when drivers experience multiple fatigue-related impairments at once.
At its most severe, fatigue can trigger microsleep—a short burst of sleep lasting up to 30 seconds—often without a driver realizing it. In those periods, a driver loses control of a car altogether. Microsleep behind the wheel frequently ends in an accident.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car driver fatigue contributes to the cause of more than 90,000 accidents annually. Even that terrifying figure may represent an undercount since investigators often blame an accident on specific, dangerous driving behaviors, without pinpointing fatigue as its underlying cause.
Although Massachusetts does not (yet) publish statistics on accidents caused by car driver fatigue, it stands to reason that drowsy driving accounts for at least ten percent (10 percent) of the thousands of accidents that happen in Boston and its environs annually.
Types of Accidents Commonly Resulting From Driver Fatigue
Fatigue can cause just about any type of traffic accident imaginable.
A few types of accidents, however, can often signal fatigue as an underlying cause, especially (but not exclusively) if they happen late at night.
- Head-on and sideswipe collisions. Drowsy car drivers often struggle to keep a car in its lane or drift into another lane while micro sleeping, which can easily lead to a head-on or sideswipe collision.
- Rear-end collisions. Fatigued car drivers cannot react to road hazards and struggle to concentrate, increasing the risk of a rear-end collision when they drive in moderate to heavy traffic.
- Pedestrian accidents resulting from a driver’s impaired vision and motor coordination that make it difficult to stop or swerve to avoid a pedestrian in or near the road.
- Single-vehicle crashes with no obvious cause, often the result of a drowsy driver nodding off behind the wheel and colliding with a fixed object or leaving the road.
- Wrong-way accidents resulting from a drowsy driver’s impaired decision-making and failure to observe traffic signs.
Speak with an experienced Boston car accident attorney right away if you suspect that fatigue may have played a role in a crash that injured you or a loved one.
Proving Boston Car Driver Fatigue Following an Accident
All Boston-area drivers owe each other a duty not to drive drowsy. Driving while fatigued is extremely dangerous and can be deemed illegal under Massachusetts law when it amounts to reckless or negligent endangerment of the lives of others (which it often does).
But proving that car driver fatigue contributed to the cause of a Boston traffic accident poses some challenges. Fatigue is so prevalent among Boston drivers that police and first responders do not always flag it as a factor in a crash.
To prove that fatigue played a role, lawyers for Boston car accident victims often need to find and present evidence that may otherwise go overlooked by accident investigators.
This might include:
- Irregular or missing tire skid marks, suggesting erratic driving or a failure to brake entirely (the result of a driver micro sleeping at the moment of a crash).
- Time of day and year, especially crashes that happen during hours when most people are sleeping (between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.), immediately after a driver gets off work, or in the week after clocks change in the spring.
- Traffic camera footage of a driver’s route through Boston streets, which can reveal driving patterns that indicate fatigue-related impairment.
- Witness statements from vehicle occupants or others who saw the crash or spent time with a driver before it happened, and can attest to the driver’s level of fatigue.
- Smartphone and fitness tracker data, which have become increasingly common and can reveal the amount and quality of a driver’s sleep in the days before the accident.
- Vehicle onboard sensor data, which can reveal patterns of driving behavior before a crash that indicate drowsy driving, such as frequent hard stops, erratic speed changes, or repeated swerving.
- Medical histories and toxicology reports that may reveal the role played by a driver’s medical conditions (including sleep disorders) and/or prescription or over-the-counter medications that increase feelings of fatigue or drowsiness.
A lawyer often needs to take swift action to locate and preserve these types of evidence. That’s why you should always contact a skilled Boston car accident attorney as soon as possible after getting hurt in a crash, especially if you suspect a driver’s fatigue might have played a contributing role.
Potential Compensation for a Boston Fatigued Car Driver Accident
All Boston drivers must carry auto insurance that includes, at a minimum:
- Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance covering up to $8,000 of the driver’s own injuries and losses in an accident, regardless of fault;
- Bodily injury liability insurance covering at least $20,000 per individual and $40,000 per accident of injuries and losses caused by the driver to others in an accident;
- Uninsured driver insurance covering at least $20,000 per individual and $40,000 per accident of injuries and losses suffered by the driver in an accident with an uninsured driver; and
- Property damage liability insurance covering at least $5,000 in losses the driver causes to someone else’s property in an accident.
After a Boston car accident, injured parties turn first to the PIP (or no-fault) insurance that covers them in the accident regardless of who was to blame. But that coverage only pays for a maximum of $8,000 of a person’s injuries or losses in a crash. Many accidents, especially severe ones, inflict damages exceeding that limit.
Under Massachusetts law, crash victims who have exhausted their PIP coverage can seek financial compensation from anyone whose unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions caused the accident. If a car driver’s fatigue contributed to the cause of an accident, injured victims and families of deceased victims may have the right to take legal action demanding payment from the drowsy driver and anyone else answerable for the driver’s actions (such as the driver’s employer).
A Boston car accident lawyer represents victims and grieving families in those legal actions.
By collecting evidence and preparing strong claims, a skilled lawyer can often secure financial compensation for their:
- Medical costs related to treating crash-related injuries and expected future medical complications, including expenses arising from emergency care, surgeries, therapy, and prescription medications.
- Other expenses from the accident and the injuries victims suffered in it, such as costs of repairing or replacing damaged property, or of hiring services to help with day-to-day activities, like childcare or transportation, while victims heal.
- Income lost when the victim missed work while healing from accident-related injuries, including the value of paid time off and vacation days consumed.
- Future earnings lost because a Boston car accident victim has suffered disabling injuries that impair the ability to work or to pursue a chosen career.
- Pain, suffering, and loss of quality of life owing to the fatigued driver accident, including harm done to personal or intimate relationships, inconvenience, discomfort, and mental health challenges.
- In the case of a tragic death, wrongful death and punitive damages to compensate a surviving spouse or family member for loss of the victim’s income, services, protection, care, assistance, society, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel, and advice.
Every Boston car accident causes unique injuries and losses to victims and families. The types and amounts of compensation they may have the right to recover can vary widely. The most reliable way to find out about your rights to compensation after a drowsy driver in Boston harms you or a loved one is to speak with an experienced attorney immediately.
Contact a Boston Car Driver Fatigue Accident Attorney Today
Fatigue plagues Boston drivers. It interferes with their abilities and clouds their judgment. And unlike other types of driver impairments, it often goes unnoticed by drivers and those who investigate the accidents they cause.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a Boston car accident, never discount the role that car driver fatigue may have played, even if a police accident report blames the crash on another factor. Through quick action and careful investigation, a skilled attorney may uncover evidence of drowsy driving that entitles you to significant financial compensation.
But you have no time to lose. The evidence your attorney may need to prove the role of driver fatigue in the crash can easily get lost or go missing. The sooner you have an experienced lawyer on your side, advocating for your rights and protecting your interests, the better your chances of securing financial compensation to help pay for your care and reimburse your losses.
To learn more, contact an experienced car accident lawyer in Boston today.