Tow trucks provide a vital service in Boston, especially during the cold and snowy winter months. Cars may not run as well during the winter as they do during the summer, as the cold weather brings out previously unnoticed mechanical problems. Cars get stuck in the snow. And Boston drivers, especially those new to the area, may easily end up stuck on the side of the road from sliding on icy roads.
While tow trucks can help rescue stranded drivers or get damaged vehicles to a mechanic who can repair them, they also pose some dangers to Boston residents. In particular, some common challenges faced by Boston drivers may also impact tow truck drivers or cause additional challenges for the residents and visitors who must share the roads with them. When such contingencies arise, these large vehicles can lead to accidents causing significant injuries.
There are many circumstances unique to driving in Boston and to tow trucks that make accidents with these vehicles more likely.
1. Boston has many narrow roads and small parking spaces.
Boston’s infrastructural design dates back to a day when roads did not need to accommodate the huge amounts of traffic, as is the case today. Boston street designers did not have many kinds of larger vehicles, like modern SUVs, in mind when they decided on their width.
As a result, many of Boston’s roads are narrow, leaving little margin for error. While Boston offers convenient bike lanes and sidewalks for walking—which may actually offer a safer way to get downtown—that extra space is intended for use by cyclists and pedestrians, not for tow truck drivers.
Those tow truck drivers, with their much larger vehicles, may struggle to safely navigate Boston’s streets. They may also fail to fit into an average-sized parking space, which can make it difficult for them to find parking if they need to pull over or park near a stranded motorist needing assistance. While tow truck drivers do receive some training and may need a special license to operate a tow truck, that might not prepare them for the challenges they are likely to face as they try to navigate those tight spots in Boston traffic.
2. Boston traffic congestion.
Most drivers know the frustrations associated with driving in heavy traffic. When you have cars all around you in congested traffic, avoiding collisions can be a tightrope act in any vehicle. For tow truck drivers, that feat is even greater. Tow trucks must, because they need to carry large vehicles with ease, have greater mass than the vehicles they pull. They may take up more space on the road, which can leave tow truck drivers struggling to avoid hitting others even more in congested traffic.
Congestion can make it hard to change lanes safely or to navigate traffic generally, especially on Boston’s winding streets, where visibility sometimes proves difficult.
3. Tow truck drivers may have generally poorer visibility than other drivers.
In Boston, many people choose to get around on foot. Frequently, walking to your destination takes less time than trying to drive, especially during high-traffic times of the day. Others use bicycles to offer speed and convenience while still providing more freedom than trying to get somewhere in a car.
Unfortunately, tow truck drivers may struggle to see the cyclists and pedestrians around them. Tow trucks tend to have large blind spots. Not only that, sometimes, those blind spots can prove unpredictable. A load may create a blind spot that does not exist on an empty tow truck. A tow truck driver pulling a larger-than-usual vehicle may have unexpected blind spots or find they need more room than anticipated to change lanes or make turns, all without having the ability to see that specific area of the vehicle. As a result, they may have a hard time avoiding potential accidents.
Those blind spots can prove particularly problematic when it comes to pedestrian traffic. Bostonians embrace jaywalking. Boston residents commonly step out into traffic with little warning, especially if they think they are visible and can safely get across the road. A tow truck driver, however, may have more trouble seeing that individual at all, which may lead to more severe accident risk. Tow-truck/pedestrian accidents pose a grave risk of severe injuries, since pedestrians bear all of the vehicle’s force. As a result, pedestrians may suffer injuries like traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury in even relatively minor accidents.
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4. Tow truck drivers who fail to properly secure vehicles to the tow truck can cause serious hazards to other drivers around them.
Tow truck drivers haul vehicles of all sizes. Each one may have different requirements when it comes to how to attach it to the tow truck. Those requirements may also vary depending on the specific type of tow truck used. Old-style tow trucks use a hook and chain system to attach to the vehicle. They lift the drive wheels off the ground, then pull the vehicle along using the tow truck’s force. Other tow trucks may fully lift the damaged or disabled vehicle onto the bed of the tow truck or use a bracket system to lock the vehicle in place.
While all those advancements offer a great deal of security for a properly attached vehicle, if the tow truck driver fails to properly attach the vehicle to the tow truck, it can result in disaster. An imbalanced vehicle may teeter and fall, often causing crushing damage to other vehicles around or behind it. If a vehicle slips off the back of the tow truck, it could drop an uncontrolled vehicle on the road to slam into another car with a great deal of force.
5. Tow truck drivers may not receive as much training as they need to safely navigate Boston’s streets.
Learning how to drive a large, unwieldy vehicle like a tow truck takes time. To operate a commercial tow truck, Boston drivers need to acquire a Class C driver’s license, rather than the regular Class D license held by passenger vehicle drivers. In some cases, tow truck drivers may need further advanced training and a different license to operate much larger tow trucks, including those commonly used to haul 18-wheelers and other larger vehicles after they get into an accident.
However, that does not mean that tow truck drivers receive the full training they need to safely navigate Boston’s streets. Sometimes, tow truck drivers get thrown into their job duties with little more than the training they received to get their normal driver’s license. They may have had a minimum number of training hours behind the wheel and received relatively little training on how to use a specific tow truck, which can leave drivers insufficiently informed and skilled to operate their tow truck safely.
A driver with inadequate training might accidentally hook up the towed vehicle incorrectly or struggle to navigate turns and stops safely enough to account for their size, especially while towing a larger vehicle or one that changes the balance of the tow truck.
Unfortunately, some towing companies, as they struggle to find adequate staff to take care of their needs, may fail to train new drivers. Thus, those drivers may head out lacking the full skills they need to perform their jobs safely, endangering everyone on the road.
6. Boston tow truck drivers spend more time on the road in bad weather conditions.
Boston drivers are familiar with driving in snow and ice. On average, Boston sees 48 inches of snow each year. With four or more months of snow each year, Boston drivers get plenty of experience navigating on slippery roads. Nevertheless, accidents occur more often during icy weather, when cars can easily slip off the road despite the driver’s best efforts. Some drivers may also have more trouble with their vehicles, since icy conditions can uncover underlying problems with the vehicle’s engine.
Tow truck drivers come to the rescue in all types of weather.
Following serious storms that led to multiple accidents and cars slipping off the road, tow truck drivers hit the roads, pulling those cars out and making it possible for snowplows to come through safely. While tow truck drivers have larger vehicles that offer more traction on those slick roads, they can still face problems when dealing with those slick, icy conditions. If tow truck drivers do lose control of their vehicles, because of the tow truck’s larger mass, they may need more room to get control of the vehicle back than the average passenger vehicle. Unfortunately, in some cases, tow trucks can cause severe accidents in icy or dangerous weather.
7. Other drivers may grow angry or reckless when confronted by a delay caused by a tow truck driver.
Sometimes, tow truck drivers themselves are not the cause of the hazard on the road. In some cases, other drivers around tow truck drivers may grow frustrated by the delays created by tow trucks and engage in dangerous, aggressive driving that causes accidents.
Tow trucks often arrive at the scene of accidents to help clear the road. Often, traffic cannot get moving until the tow truck can hook up the damaged vehicle and remove it from the road. Tow trucks may also need to slow down or block traffic further to rescue the damaged vehicle. It can take time to properly attach it to the tow truck, make sure everything gets latched in place correctly, and make the way clear for traffic to proceed. A rushed tow truck driver may have a greater likelihood of causing an accident due to improper hookups, so many tow truck drivers will take all the time they need and not worry as much about the traffic building up behind them.
Some drivers stuck behind a tow truck may refuse to accept the unexpected delay. The more time it takes to hook up the tow truck, the greater their frustration grows. Some drivers may attempt dangerous maneuvers to get around a tow truck, even on the aforementioned narrower streets in certain areas of Boston.
They may try to swerve around the tow truck, despite having inadequate room to perform the maneuver. They may pass on the wrong side of the road to get past, despite oncoming traffic. Or they might pass too closely to the tow truck and driver, placing the driver in danger as they move about the truck to perform their work. While tow truck drivers often face serious hazards from these actions, so do other drivers, who may not have the ability to predict what frustrated drivers will do as they try to get away from the scene of an accident.
8. Tow truck drivers may cause more serious consequences when they get distracted.
Distracted driving can cause serious accidents regardless of who gets distracted behind the wheel. Tow truck drivers, however, can cause even more serious accidents when they get distracted because of the larger size and weight of the tow truck. A moment’s distraction could cause the tow truck driver to miss another vehicle moving into the tow truck’s blind spot or to fail to notice someone stopping in front of them in time to apply the brakes to avoid a collision.
Since tow trucks require more time to slow, change lanes, or stop, failing to note these simple movements can lead to catastrophic accidents. Unfortunately, tow truck drivers may contend with many potential distractions. If they have to take the towed vehicle to an unfamiliar location, they may need to use a GPS to navigate. They may have notifications going off letting them know about other stranded drivers or the next stop they need to make. A moment’s inattention seems reasonable given these needs of their work, but that inattention could ultimately end in catastrophic accidents. If you’ve been injured in a tow truck accident in Boston, contact our truck accident lawyers today for help.