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Articles Posted in Driving Hazards

The dangers of driving drunk are well known. But what about driving tired? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigued or drowsy driving leads to more than 100,000 reported accidents annually in the United States.

When it comes to driving, fatigue is an impairment, much like alcohol. One major difference between fatigued driving and drunk driving, however, is that fatigue cannot be easily measured with a breath or blood test. If you think a fatigued driver is responsible for your injuries, a Boston personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages.

Symptoms of Fatigued Driving

If you think you are too tired to drive safely, don’t get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, people often don’t realize they are fatigued until it’s too late. Below are some common symptoms of driver fatigue. If you notice yourself doing any of these things, pull over.

  • Repeated yawning
  • Difficulty focusing, both visually and cognitively
  • Head nodding
  • Daydreaming
  • Drifting in and out of your lane
  • Rubbing your eyes
  • Frequent blinking
  • Hallucinating

Risk Factors for Fatigued Driving

Most of us have had at least one or two experiences with fatigued driving, but some people drive while drowsy on a daily basis. This is of special concern for long-haul truck drivers, late shift workers, and medical professionals who put in 12 and 14-hour shifts. Driver fatigue is also common among people with obesity, certain health problems, and those who smoke. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs are also notorious for causing driver fatigue. Talk to your health care provider about these risks if you are currently taking any type of medication. You may have a high risk of driver fatigue if you:

  • are between the ages of 16 and 29.
  • are a shift worker who works irregular hours, or at night.
  • have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, such as narcolepsy.

Fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. In both scenarios, our reaction time is slower, our judgment is impaired, and our overall awareness is significantly decreased. We may also develop aggressive behaviors and become moody or irritable when fatigued, none of which support safe driving practices. When we are unfocused and agitated, the chance for a collision increases dramatically. Not to mention, fatigued driving can lead to falling asleep behind the wheel, which rarely ends well.

Fatigued Driving Statistics

The statistics below provide a deeper look into the problem of fatigued driving, and how you can avoid becoming a statistic.

  • Approximately one in 25 adults say they have fallen asleep behind the wheel in the previous 30 days.
  • Individuals who snore are more likely to fall asleep while driving.
  • More than 6,000 traffic fatalities annually are caused by fatigued or drowsy driving.
  • Men are nearly twice as likely as women to fall asleep behind the wheel.
  • Fatigued driving is more common among adults with young children in the household.
  • An Australian study revealed that being awake for 24 hours produces a level of impairment equal to that of an intoxicated person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10, which is well above the legal limit.
  • A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) revealed that only about one in five drivers pulls over to nap when fatigued.
  • Younger adults are less likely to pull over when tired than their older counterparts.

If you feel fatigue coming on while driving, protect yourself and anyone with whom you share the road. Pull over. A 20-minute nap may just save your life. A MA auto accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another driver’s negligence. Continue reading

It should be obvious, shouldn’t it? Using Facebook or Instagram while driving is a bad idea. But knowing what’s right and doing what’s right are two entirely different things. Unfortunately, statistics show that although we may know the dangers of using social media while driving, we’re still doing it. A recent survey sponsored by the National Safety Council revealed that 74% of those surveyed use Facebook while driving, and 37% use Twitter. YouTube and Instagram came in close behind. People are even playing video games while driving. Last year, a Maryland man crashed into a parked police car while playing “Pokemon Go.”

In 2008, Jennifer Smith’s mother was killed when a 20-year-old who was using her cell phone drove through a red light. “As I’m talking to new families, more and more of them are telling me, ‘It’s Snapchat,’ ” said Smith. “It’s Snapchat today, but then what is it tomorrow? You know, we’ve got the ‘Pokemon Go’ coming, and then it’s the next thing.” Smith works full time to lobby for legislation that will prevent accidents like the one that killed her mother. “Social networking while driving is not necessary and should not be done by anyone, in any way, who’s driving. Period. And somehow we’ve got to make the whole country understand that.” A MA auto accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver.

Distracted Driving Likely a Factor in One-Quarter of all Crashes in Massachusetts and Around the Country

Unfortunately, it looks like we have a long way to go before drivers – especially young drivers – change their distracted-driving habits. In a recent survey of 2,500 teens, nearly 70 percent admitted to using apps while they drive. Only six percent of those surveyed said they think that social media is the most distracting behavior while driving. But distracted driving kills an average of eight people every day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And that is likely a massive underestimation. Proving that an accident was caused by distracted driving isn’t an easy thing to do. The National Safety Council estimates that distracted driving is actually responsible for about 25 percent of all crashes.

Social Media Slows Reaction Time More than Alcohol

In fact, according to a study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory and the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the reaction time for a driver who has been drinking is reduced by 12 percent; for someone on their smart phone, it’s a 38 percent reduction. And the use of social media is making things even worse. Kids are growing up in a society where it’s socially acceptable to post a picture of the congested traffic they’re sitting in on their drive home. Distracted driving is never ok. A Boston auto accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver. Continue reading

Summer is the most popular season for day trips, road trips, and trips to the lake or beach. Although the more obvious hazards of winter, such as snow and ice, have vanished for the foreseeable future, summer driving carries its own set of risks. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), July and August are the two deadliest months for car accidents. What makes summer driving so dangerous, and how can you avoid becoming a statistic?

Common Hazards

There are multiple factors that increase the risk of driving in summer, but the main issue is the significant uptick in traffic. More people on the road equals more opportunities for accidents. Summer driving hazards include:

 

  • Novice drivers: Suddenly, millions of teens who were previously in school Monday through Friday are now on the open road, with little to do but celebrate. In addition to their lack of experience, young drivers often have a sense of invincibility and adventure that can result in dangerous driving behaviors, such as speeding. You can reduce this risk by traveling at off-peak hours, always driving defensively, and teaching your teen child about the risks of speeding, and reckless or distracted driving.

 

  • Heavy traffic: As stated above, there are more people on the road in summer than during any other season. In addition to school vacation and trips to the beach, there are also festivals, fairs and concerts just about every night of the week. Traffic can be especially heavy in tourist areas and around cities. Use caution; always leave ample space between your car and the car in front of you, drive defensively, and never allow yourself to be distracted when driving on a congested roadway. A Boston auto accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a car accident.

 

  • Construction: Summer is construction season. The sight of orange traffic cones is a good indicator that warmer weather is on the horizon. Construction zones are inherently dangerous. Lane changes can be confusing, and not everyone slows down to the required speed. And to make things even more harrowing, men and women working in the construction zone may be difficult to see. When approaching a construction zone, reduce your speed immediately, and avoid any type of distraction; don’t even adjust the air conditioning.

 

  • Cyclists and motorcycles: Cycling and riding are synonymous with summer. These environmentally-sound and economical modes of transportation are a good thing, but it may be difficult to see riders and cyclists due to their small size. Before switching lanes, always double check for motorcycles and cyclists in your blind spots. A MA motor vehicle accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in an accident involving a motorcycle.

 

  • Heavy rain: Heavy storms, and even light rain, can make roadways dangerous. Hydroplaning occurs when tires lose traction with the road. Anyone who has ever hydroplaned knows how scary it can be; you temporarily lose control of the vehicle, much like on icy roads. To avoid hydroplaning, reduce speeds during rainfall, avoid driving during heavy rains if possible, and make sure your tires have adequate traction.

 

  • Blowouts: Hot roads and hot air during summer months can cause the air inside of tires to expand. If a tire is excessively worn, air expansion can result in a tire blowout. Blowouts, especially at high speeds, can be disastrous. To prevent this type of accident, you should replace your tires at least once every five years, and check them regularly for proper traction and inflation.

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On March 1, 2017, the Safety Institute released its quarterly Vehicle Safety Watch List to identify those vehicles with a higher-than-average risk of dangerous defects. The report uses statistics from Early Warning Reports, including injury and death claims. Although the list does not include automobile defects that have already been made official, it does take into account consumer reports that warn of potential dangers. Nearly half of the vehicles on the list are GM vehicles.

The March 2017 Vehicle Safety Watch List identifies 15 vehicles that may have dangerous defects. These include:

  • 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×4 – Powertrain

A 45-year old Dennisport woman was struck and killed earlier this week when she stopped to check on a flat tire. The woman was traveling westbound on Route 6 when she pulled onto the shoulder of the Cape Cod highway. According to police, this area of the highway does not have a breakdown lane. As the woman exited her vehicle, she was struck by a pickup truck driven by a 22-year old Dennis man. The victim, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Safety Tips for Roadside Breakdowns

This tragedy is a stark reminder of the dangers of roadside breakdowns, especially when they occur at night, and on highways or other busy stretches of road. Obviously, if a tire blows or your vehicle breaks down, you have little choice about when and where to pull over. If the area isn’t safe, what do you do? According to the National Safety Council, the tips below can help prevent serious injury and death in the event of a roadside breakdown.

  • The moment you notice a problem, gently remove your foot from the gas pedal. Avoid braking hard or fast. Slowly and carefully move your vehicle to the breakdown lane (if available) or to the side of the road. If you are on a highway and believe you can make it to an exit, try to reach the nearest exit before pulling off the road. Don’t forget to signal your turns to the drivers behind you.
  • Once you have pulled off the road, it’s important to make your car highly visible to other drivers. Preemptively stashing reflective triangles in your trunk is a good idea. If you have these, place them behind your vehicle. Turn on your car’s emergency flashers, and turn on the interior light if it’s dark outside.
  • If you must change a flat tire, make sure that you can do it away from traffic. If this is possible, proceed with changing the tire. If it is not, however, call for professional help. Even if the added delay will create schedule conflicts or other problems, don’t attempt to change a tire yourself in a dangerous location. A MA injury lawyer can help you obtain compensation if you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident.
  • If the car is beyond repair or you are stopped on a dangerous stretch of roadway, get professional help. Do not attempt to wave down other motorists. If you have a cellphone, call for help. If you don’t, raise your hood and tie something – preferably white – to the antennae to signal that you need help. Stand far away from the vehicle and wait for help.
  • If your car is beyond repair and stopped in a safe location, you can remain in the vehicle. Keep your doors locked and use your cell phone to call for help. If someone stops to offer help, crack the window slightly and politely ask the person to contact the police. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident.
  • Interstate highways and busy roadways are patrolled frequently by police and other emergency personnel. Many highways also have “call for help” phones; if you can reach one safely, use it. However, walking along a stretch of highway is rarely a good idea. Unless you are sure that you can safely reach a call box or other source of help, do not walk. If you do walk, use the right side of the roadway and never attempt to cross a multi-lane highway.

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Today we have wearable fitness trackers, sensors that detect a drop in blood sugar for people with diabetes, and sweat patches to monitor drug use in people on probation. It seems logical to assume that we could also detect the amount of alcohol in our bloodstream without the need for a blood test or traditional breathalyzer. With this type of technology, individuals could monitor their blood alcohol content (BAC) prior to getting behind the wheel to determine if they are under the legal limit. But it would also law enforcement to monitor individuals with OUI convictions. If you’ve been charged with OUI, contact a Boston defense attorney today.

Less Embarrassing Than an IID

If you are convicted of OUI, you may be permitted to continue driving with the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). By blowing into the device, you allow the system to measure your BAC; if alcohol is detected, the engine won’t start. Unfortunately, IIDs are expensive to install (a cost the offender must absorb), and they can be embarrassing. Can you imagine a first date where you have to blow into a device to start your car after dinner? For these reasons, as well as to allow individuals to check their BAC before getting behind the wheel, engineers have been working on a more efficient method of detection.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego have developed a wearable device that can effectively measure BAC. The “temporary tattoo” adheres to the skin, induces sweat production, measures the individual’s BAC, and sends that data to a smartphone, laptop, or IID, eliminating the need to blow into a device to start your car. The alcohol sensor communicates the information via Bluetooth. Although BAC is most accurately measured with blood tests, breath and perspiration also provide reliable results. Sweat-reliant devices have been in the works for years, but they haven’t been particularly reliable until now. There was a dangerous delay in results; it could take hours for the sweat’s measurements to match the actual BAC. That problems has been resolved; the new sensor can “accurately monitor alcohol level in sweat within 15 minutes.” Contact a Massachusetts OUI lawyer today.

Sweat Sensors May Allow Drinkers to Self-Monitor

In addition to providing an alternative to IIDs, PhD Student Jayoung Kim, one of the sensor’s creators, hopes that it can help drinkers monitor their ability to drive safely. “”When you’re out at a party or at a bar,” said Kim, “this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you’ve been drinking.” Beyond self-monitoring and allowing those convicted of OUIs to resume driving, sweat patches may also one day be used to monitor a person’s BAC even when not driving. This could be useful in certain situations, such as probation cases, but certainly has the potential to be highly invasive. Then again, information sharing, across the board, has been moving in that direction. From social media to face scanning software, the idea of privacy has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years, for better or for worse. Continue reading

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,179 Americans died as the result of distracted driving in 2014. The total number of traffic deaths have risen more than 10 percent from the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2016.  According to AAA, 58 percent of the 963,000 automobile accidents involving teens aged 16-19 in 2013 were linked in some way to distracted driving. Approximately 10 percent of the 2,865 teen driving fatalities in 2013 were also linked to distracted driving.

When most people think of distracted driving, they think of people that are behind the wheel doing their makeup, checking their hair, eating a hamburger or updating their Facebook page about how annoying it is to sit in traffic. However, a lesser-discussed element of distracted driving is driving when you’re tired, or “drowsy driving.”  Driving while tired can affect anybody, from 16-year-olds headed to school after staying up too late the night before to professional truck drivers who have stringent schedules to keep that don’t allow for proper resting. But as much as we think it is sufficient enough to guzzle a coffee or open a window to feel a cold breeze, the dangers of driving while drowsy are very real.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that:

The dangers of distracted driving are well known. In fact, 46 states currently have laws against texting while driving. Most major highways are now equipped with “text stops”, designated pull-offs where drivers can safely, and easily, exit the road and read or send text messages. But despite the risks, millions of Americans still use their cell phones while driving every day. And texting is no longer the only phone-related concern. Apps, including Snapchat and Instagram – and even driving-related Apps, such as Waze – are taking our attention from the road.  Anyone driving in and around the Greater Boston area can see this problem on a daily basis – whether driving to or from work or just to the local market – if you look around you will see drivers  constantly looking down at their phones – and it’s very dangerous. Very dangerous. How dangerous you ask, look at the statistics below…

70% of Teens Report Using Apps While Behind the Wheel

All ages are guilty of talking, texting, or otherwise using cell phones while driving, but teens are the biggest offenders. Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) recently partnered with Liberty Mutual Insurance to conduct a survey of 2,500 teen drivers. Of those surveyed, about 70 percent reported using apps while driving. This is a scary statistic, but it gets even worse. When 2,400 drivers of all ages were surveyed by the National Safety Council (NSC), 74 percent reported using Facebook while driving.

Distracted Driving May be to Blame for 25% of Auto Accidents

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of deadly auto accidents in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than eight people are killed and 1,000 people are injured due to distracted driving, every single day. However, because distracted driving is rarely reported and hard to prove, these figures are likely much higher. The NSC estimates that approximately 25 percent of all auto accidents are a direct result of cell phone use while driving.

The average driver has traveled the length of a football field in the time it takes to read a single text. That is far too long to have your eyes off the road. If anything unexpected happens – an animal runs in front of your car, another car swerves, the car in front of you slams on its brakes – the results could be deadly. Continue reading

 

Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report emphasizing the importance of properly maintaining guardrails and other hardware to road safety.  Roadside safety “hardware” most often refers to guardrails and median barriers, but the GAO report also includes several other groups of road safety hardware, such as:

  1. “Longitudinal barriers, which include items such as guardrails and cable barriers and are intended to reduce the probability of a vehicle’s striking an object or terrain feature off the roadway that is less forgiving than the barrier;
  2. bridge barriers, which function as longitudinal barriers but are specific to bridge design;
  3. barrier terminals/crash cushions, which include items like guardrail end terminals that are intended to absorb or divert the energy of a crash into the end of a longitudinal barrier;
  4. support structures, such as sign supports, which are designed to break or yield when struck by a vehicle;
  5. work zone devices, which include a variety of items used in a work zone that are temporary in nature.”

In the report, the GAO explicitly states the objective of all kinds of roadside safety hardware, that goal being “when the hardware contains, redirects, or decelerates the vehicle to a safe stop without causing serious injury to the vehicle’s occupants or other people.”  The GAO report also noted the discrepancies shown in a state by state survey.  The survey demonstrated the inconsistencies in the crash testing results of such road safety equipment across different states.  This is likely due to the lack of a monitoring program by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a program that the GAO insists should be implemented to provide additional support on scheduled safety upgrades.  Continue reading

An underride crash occurs when a passenger vehicle goes under a truck, trailer, or other large vehicle. Unfortunately, these crashes often result in serious injuries and are significantly more likely to be fatal. The same is true of ‘side underride crashes’, which often involve bicyclists or pedestrians and are particularly dangerous in urban areas. Underride crashes and side underride crashes have been a hot button issue in the Boston area in recent weeks. Contact a Boston Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Today.

Earlier this month, a young woman on a scooter was killed by one of Boston’s iconic ‘duck boats’ when the driver failed to see her. The amphibious vehicles have been surrounded by controversy in recent years, as accidents in Philadelphia and the state of Washington have resulted in multiple deaths. The duck boats, which were not designed for recreational use on land, can be quite dangerous, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.

In response to a surge in underride and side underride crashes, the City of Boston was represented earlier this month at the Institute for Highway Safety’s roundtable on underride crashes. Beyond duck boats, other large vehicles, such as 18-wheelers, need adequate room to make turns. When they don’t have enough space, the consequences can be disastrous. Another dangerous situations occurs when a passenger vehicle attempts to pass a tractor-trailer on the right as the larger vehicle makes a right-hand turn. Certain modifications, such as rear and side underride guards, can help reduce serious injury and death.

“The one thing I hope everyone takes away from this session is that there has been a lot of progress in recent years on underride crashes,” said David Zuby, chief research officer for IIHS, “and there will be more ahead.” Of the eight major manufacturers of trailers, four have voluntarily improved the rear underride guard design of their vehicles, based on updated IIHS standards. The manufacturers who have made these improvements are Wabash, Vanguard, Stoughton, and Manac.

Rear and Side Underride Guards Save Lives

To test the design improvements on the trailers, the IIHS conducted tests during the May 5 roundtable. In one test, they crashed a 2016 Chevy Malibu into the rear underride guard at 35 mph. The guard successfully stopped the car, and the Malibu’s test dummy ‘survived’ the crash. Although this is a significant step in the right direction, pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers must remember that not all trucks, trailers, and large vehicles currently have side or rear guards. Use caution around large vehicles, and always remember, if you can’t see a truck’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Continue reading

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