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How Big of a Problem are Alcohol and Drug Use in the Trucking Industry?

The effects of drugs and alcohol are well-known to cause serious impacts on decision-making abilities and reaction times. Unfortunately, due to stress and other reasons, drivers frequently underestimate the effects drugs and alcohol will have on their ability to drive. However, this act can have serious consequences not only for the CDL driver, but also, all motorists in the truck, bus, or another vehicle in the vicinity of the commercial driver.

Unfortunately, private and government studies continue to identify the use of drugs and alcohol as a problem in the transportation industry. Furthermore, government agencies continue to identify drug and alcohol use as a major problem in transportation.

FMCSA Study Find the Alcohol, Illegal Drugs, and Over-the-Counter Drugs Are Accident Risks

A 2007 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study to determine the reasons for serious crashes involving large trucks studied a representative sample of 120,000 crashes occurring between April 2001 and December 2003. The study found that “Fatigue, drinking alcohol, and speeding are major factors in motor vehicle crashes overall.” The study found that the use of alcohol, drug use, and illegal drugs by the driver represented, at least, some increased risk for a trucking accident, though, the risk was less than expected.

However, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report presented a bleaker picture regarding the state’s ability to screen out commercial drivers with a history of substance abuse or an alcohol or drug dependency. In one instance, a driver’s license was suspended in 2005 after a DWI conviction. As part of an application for benefits with the Social Security Administration, it was on record that the driver was diagnosed with psychosis and a history of alcohol and cannabis use. Furthermore, in 2009, it was noted by a physician that the driver was “unable to participate in employment or training activities in any capacity due to paranoid schizophrenia.” Despite this history of substance abuse and medical impairments, the driver was able to obtain a CDL issued by the state of Virginia in 2010.

While it is unclear how widespread gaps in safety compliance enforcement are, the fact that this occurred is troubling.

Alcohol and Drug Use Make NTSBs 2016 Most Wanted Safety Improvements List

As it has for many years, the problem of substance abuse in transportation made the National Transportation Board’s (NTSB) 2016 Most Wanted List. NTSB states that in the last 15 years, one-third of highway deaths involve a driver who was under the influence of alcohol. NTSB also cites a 2013 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey where 13 percent of drivers stated that they believed they had driven while they were close to or above the legal limit. For regular drivers, the legal limit for drunk driving is .08 BAC. For CDL drivers, the legal limit is just .04%. CDL drivers are subject to harsh consequences if they are caught while  driving over the legal limit

The Report Notes that Drugs Now Rival Alcohol as a Problem

Of particular note is that for the first time the report describes a new reality regarding transportation and substance abuse. This reality is that impaired driving is not only caused by alcohol. Any type of drug can also affect an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Over-the-counter, illegal, and prescription drugs can all create serious impairments. Furthermore, drugs can have a more unpredictable effect on people. Furthermore, the signs of impairment can be more difficult to detect than the well-known symptoms of alcohol use.

Injured by a Truck Driver Impaired by Drugs or Alcohol?

If you were injured by a drunk driver or a drugged driver, you don’t have to simply accept the consequences of the accident. In many cases, you may have extensive injuries including broken bones, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), whiplash, and other serious injuries. If you have suffered serious life-altering injuries in a truck accident where drugs or alcohol were involved, you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation can include your medical bills, lost wages, lost future earnings, and an array of other damages.

To discuss your legal options after a crash with a truck, bus, or other commercial vehicles call a lawyer from The Reiff Law Firm. We can discuss your legal options and how you should move forward with your life. To schedule a free and confidential consultation call (215) 709-6940 today.


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