Drunk driving is already dangerous for every motorist. Drinking and driving is responsible for thousands of injuries and deaths on the road every year, causing devastation to both victims and their families. In fact, according to data from the NHTSA, drinking and driving causes 28 fatalities daily. However, drinking and driving truck drivers put people in even more danger due to the size and weight of their vehicles, which can cause far more damage than cars and other smaller vehicles.
Why Driving a Truck Under the Influence Is Especially Dangerous
Trucks, including everything from pickup trucks to commercial semi-trucks, present many dangers on the road because of their combined size, weight, and complexity. Unlike cars or other vehicles on the road, trucks are often more challenging for drivers to operate.
Drivers often need to perform multiple steps when starting and operating certain commercial trucks, such as garbage trucks and tractors. In addition, drivers may need to adjust to the vehicle and practice driving to perfect techniques for maneuvering and stopping. Truckers driving at higher speeds on the highway present an even greater risk as the vehicle gains momentum.
If a driver is inexperienced or poorly skilled, the risk of causing an accident increases even further. While truck drivers may be skilled enough to drive while sober, only a couple of drinks can be enough to severely hinder a trucker’s ability to handle a truck safely. If the driver loses control of the vehicle, trucks are capable of causing significant damage, injuries, and fatalities to nearby vehicles, drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and property.
Reasons Why Truck Drivers Drink and Drive
Although a part of commercial driver’s license (CDL) training involves understanding the risks associated with drinking and driving, many truck drivers still engage in this behavior. While many cases may simply be a matter of problem drinking that has to do with addiction to alcohol, there are more complicated factors behind drinking and driving truckers. These may include:
#1. A Truck Driver Shortage
One potential reason why drinking and driving is a problem among truck drivers is the national truck driver shortage, with the American Trucking Associations estimating that the shortage would peak at 80,000 in 2021. Although the ATA claims that one of the reasons for the shortage is that trucking companies hire only qualified drivers, many drivers on the road still operate trucks without a CDL and continue to drink and drive.
#2. Truckers Are Not Under Supervision
Unlike many other work environments, truck drivers spend much of their time alone and without supervision. As a result, truckers are entirely responsible for their behavior while on the road, making it easier for many to engage in alcohol consumption without worrying about the repercussions.
#3. Trucking Companies Need to Implement New Measures
While truck drivers may not be under constant supervision, trucking companies can take certain steps to help reduce the number of drunk driving instances on the road. When truck drivers choose to drink and drive, employers must be able to identify it and work to prevent it. Without proper testing procedures and other measures, truck drivers may still drink and drive.
The Legal Consequences for Intoxicated Truck Drivers
In most states and for most drivers, the legal limit for drinking and driving is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08. This means that if a person contains 0.08 percent alcohol in their blood, they are legally impaired. However, for truckers, this limit is often reduced to 0.04. If a truck driver is tested and found to have a BAC of 0.04, they may face severe criminal penalties and may lose their CDL. Additionally, truck drivers are not permitted to operate a truck while under the influence of any other intoxicating substance, including illegal narcotics, chemical substances, or other drugs.
What to Do After Accidents Involving Impaired Truck Drivers
If you are involved in an accident and believe an impaired truck driver is responsible for the accident and your injuries, take these steps immediately after the accident:
#1. Stay Safe and Calm
If possible, you should check yourself for injuries and attend to others involved in the accident. The fact that the truck driver is impaired may further complicate matters at the scene, making it important to prioritize your safety and others. Try to calm down and assess the situation before taking additional action.
#2. Contact the Authorities and Gather Evidence
The next step is to notify the authorities by calling 9-1-1, which will help ensure that law enforcement and emergency medical services arrive at the scene. Indicating to dispatchers that the truck driver involved may be intoxicated can help first responders adequately prepare for the situation upon arrival.
In addition, collect the insurance and driver’s license information from the intoxicated driver and others involved, including witnesses. Capturing photo or video evidence of the scene can also create documentation that may support a car accident claim. Law enforcement will also generate a police report, which may further support your claim.
#3. Seek Medical Attention
If you do not require immediate medical attention following an accident, you should still seek treatment for any injuries, regardless of how minor they may seem. Injuries may become more serious later, and seeking treatment soon after an accident can provide you with medical records that may also back your claims.
#4. Speak With an Attorney
The claims process can be complex. To determine if you have a viable case and learn about the types of compensation you may be able to recover following an accident involving an intoxicated truck driver, consult with a qualified attorney.
Truck drivers who drink and drive while on the job put many at risk, but victims of accidents involving impaired truck drivers may be able to file a claim or lawsuit against these individuals and other liable parties. With the help of a strong case and a reliable car accident lawyer, accident victims may be able to recover the compensation they deserve.