A high percentage of adults admit to feeling drowsy or even falling asleep behind the wheel. Many drivers will get behind the wheel despite feeling fatigued, despite knowing the dangers potentially associated with driving while fatigued. All too often, that fatigue contributes to serious accidents with substantial injuries for Boston drivers and their passengers.
Why Boston Drivers Have High Fatigue Risks
Boston drivers may face high levels of fatigue for many reasons—and may, in some cases, face higher overall risks as a result of fatigue on the roads.
1. Boston drivers face long commute times.
While Boston workers, like many across the United States, have turned to increased levels of remote work over the past year and a half, Boston commute times can still cause a high fatigue risk. Boston workers often live outside the city and commute in for work. Those drivers have an average commute time of around 40 minutes or more each way. That means a lot of time on the road and may mean rising amounts of fatigue, especially as commuters burn the candle at both ends to have more time to themselves despite long workdays.
As part of those long commute times, drivers may also have to contend with increased traffic on the roads during their commutes, which may make it the worst time of day to fall prey to fatigue.
2. Boston drivers face some of the worst congestion on the roads in North America.
Boston has, for many years, experienced some of the most intense congestion of any city in the United States. Travel time delays have caused hazards and snarls for years. While the Massachusetts governor plans to take steps to relieve congestion where possible, in many cases, the roads simply have more drivers than they can reasonably hold.
That congestion can substantially increase the fatigue felt by many drivers. Driving in tight traffic can prove stressful. During periods where traffic moves little, if at all, however, many drivers may find themselves feeling increasingly tired, worn down, and exhausted. They may lose focus behind the wheel and have a hard time paying attention to everything that goes on around them. They may also become increasingly distracted to combat that fatigue.
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3. Boston has an active nightlife, including an array of clubs and bars that welcome guests until late at night.
An active nightlife can serve as a potent draw as people move into the city or come in on vacation. While some people thrive late at night, the vast majority of the population feels more awake and alert during daylight hours. People out enjoying Boston’s nightlife may also prove more likely to drink, which may increase the overall risk of fatigue even if they have a safe blood alcohol level. Drivers may have a greater risk of falling asleep behind the wheel or suffering from high levels of overall fatigue when they get behind the wheel late at night, particularly after enjoying many of the exciting activities available throughout the Boston area.
4. Many Boston residents rely on Uber, Lyft, taxis, and public transportation to get around.
Boston has some of the lowest car ownership rates in the United States. Boston has a rich public transportation infrastructure available, which makes it easier for residents to get around the city—and, in many cases, avoid some of the congested roads during the busiest parts of the day. The fact that many Boston residents do not own cars also opens the door for a variety of rideshare services or professional drivers to come into the area. Many Boston residents rely on Uber, Lyft, and taxis to help them get around when they do not want to use public transportation, particularly if they want to head out during a quieter part of the day.
Those professional drivers, however, often spend a great deal of time on the road each day. They may end up driving despite fatigue or illness, since they need to stay on the road to earn a living. On slower days, Uber and Lyft drivers may even choose to extend their hours to make more money, which could lead to increased levels of overall fatigue.
5. Boston has many curvy roads that could increase the risk to fatigued drivers.
On curvy roads, drivers naturally face more dangers than they do on straighter roads. They may need to exercise more control over their vehicles to keep them safely on the road. Fatigued drivers, however, may lack the skills they need to safely get around those roads and avoid potential collisions.
6. Bad weather can raise accident risk.
Each year, Boston sees an estimated 48 inches of snow. Temperatures in January can dip to an average low of around 19 degrees, which can mean frozen roads and snow and ice all around. While Boston drivers quickly learn how to navigate in a variety of potential weather conditions, fatigued drivers have a hard time controlling their vehicles safely. On snow and ice, drivers may suffer serious accidents as they become increasingly drowsy behind the wheel.
The Dangers of Fatigued Driving
Most drivers know that driving while fatigued carries a heavy risk, but they may not realize exactly how heavy. In reality, driving while excessively fatigued can cause many of the same symptoms as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As fatigue rises, drivers may have a hard time controlling their vehicles safely. Fatigued drivers pose many challenges to themselves and others when they choose to get behind the wheel.
Fatigued drivers may suffer from tunnel vision.
Like drunk drivers, fatigued drivers often suffer from tunnel vision. While they may keep their attention on what happens in front of them on the road, they may have a hard time keeping track of what happens anywhere but directly in front of them. If a pedestrian steps off the sidewalk and a car pulls out from a stop sign without slowing, or a vehicle turns in front of the pedestrian, fatigued drivers may never note the presence of that hazard. Fatigued drivers may also have a hard time changing lanes or navigating turns, since the drivers may have a hard time shifting their focus to those other areas of the vehicle.
Fatigued drivers often struggle with slowed reaction times.
When behind the wheel, you need fast reaction times to address potential hazards and reduce the risk of an accident. Unfortunately, fatigued drivers may lack the resources to react appropriately to a potential accident.
In a car, milliseconds can make a huge difference. Someone slams on their brakes in front of you, steps out in front of your vehicle, or changes lanes and slows down. You may only have an instant to react in time to prevent an accident. Fatigued drivers, unfortunately, may not have the reaction times needed to navigate those situations and avoid a nasty collision.
Fatigued drivers frequently have trouble safely controlling their vehicles.
Along with slowed reaction times, fatigued drivers may struggle to control their vehicles on the road. Fatigued drivers often drift from their assigned lanes, which may mean a head-on collision with traffic traveling the other direction or a sideswipe collision involving a vehicle traveling in the same direction. On Boston’s tight streets, drivers may not have adequate room to correct before causing a serious accident.
Boston also has a large network of bike lanes that cross the city. Those bike lanes assign approximately five feet of space in the road to bicycles. A fatigued driver who drifts into a bike lane may cause immense injury to cyclists using the lane, particularly since cyclists lack both the necessary speed and the room to maneuver that they would need to avoid a serious accident.
Fatigued drivers may have poor decision-making ability.
Fatigue can make your brain feel almost intoxicated, and it can impact your decision-making ability in much the same way as having a drink. Fatigued drivers often prove more likely to make foolish decisions on the road. Fatigued drivers may, for example, misjudge the amount of room they need to change lanes or to execute a turn safely. They may assume that they have enough room to pull out into traffic, only to discover that another vehicle has already grown far too close.
At high levels of fatigue, foolish decision-making may increase further. Fatigued drivers may choose to speed or ignore the rules of the road to get to their destinations faster. Drivers may aim to reduce the time they have to spend behind the wheel, but ultimately end up causing a serious accident because they failed to exercise adequate care.
Fatigued drivers may completely forget parts of their trip.
Most people have, at some point, experienced road haze or disassociation, which causes them to forget part of their travel time. Fatigued drivers, however, may remember little of their journeys. Sometimes, they may end up in areas they do not recognize after making decisions they do not remember behind the wheel. Severe fatigue can make it very difficult for drivers to figure out how to get home. That memory loss may also make it difficult for drivers to recall which stretches of road they already passed or to call to mind other interactions that occurred during the drive.
Driver fatigue can further increase the risks associated with common distractions behind the wheel.
Many Boston drivers, despite clear laws against it, may drive while distracted. They might talk on the phone, use a GPS device to navigate, or simply eat or drink behind the wheel. Sometimes, drivers will engage in increased distractions to keep themselves awake, from changing stations on the radio to talking loudly with a friend or eating and drinking while driving.
Not only can those distractions pose risks of their own, but they may also increase the dangers of driving while fatigued. Fatigued drivers may have even more trouble than usual splitting their attention between driving and another task. Depending on the task, drivers may find their attention locked on the other task instead of on the road, which may raise the risk of causing a serious accident.
Drivers may actually fall asleep behind the wheel.
Fatigued drivers may go through microsleeps, or brief sleep episodes, while behind the wheel. Microsleeps can last from a fraction of a second to as much as 30 seconds. The longer the microsleep, the longer the driver’s attention remains off of the road, and the higher the risks associated with those events may grow.
In a worst-case scenario, a fatigued driver might actually fall asleep behind the wheel: not just nodding off and jerking awake moments later, but actively falling asleep. When a driver falls asleep behind the wheel, the vehicle has no one to control it, which means that it may careen out of control with nothing anyone can do to stop it and cause a serious accident.
Other drivers cannot predict the behavior of the driver, since the driver does not have control of the vehicle. Since the driver’s foot usually sits on the gas, the car will not slow, but may instead proceed at full speed straight into the nearest obstacle.
Accidents with drivers who have fallen asleep behind the wheel may result in severe, often life-altering injuries, since these types of accidents often involve much greater force than other types of accidents.
If you suffer injuries in an accident with a fatigued driver in Boston, you may have the right to file a personal injury claim to help you seek compensation for those injuries. Do not try to handle your claim on your own. An experienced Boston car accident attorney can help investigate your claim and your accident and give you more information about your eligibility to file a car accident claim.