There are many forms of truck driver negligence that can cause a crash, but the most dangerous type is impaired driving. Safely operating a commercial truck is already difficult without the delayed reaction time, impaired judgment and visual impairment often caused by alcohol or drugs.
In this blog, Sigman Janssen discusses commercial truck crashes involving drugs and alcohol, including why truck drivers use drugs and alcohol. We also discuss the types of crashes caused by intoxication, regulations on truck driver drug testing, and pursuing compensation for damages.
If you were injured in a truck crash, our Appleton truck accident lawyers may be able to assist you.
Millions recovered. Free consultation and no upfront costs. Call us today: (877) 888-5201.
Why Do Truck Drivers Consume Alcohol or Drugs Before or During Trips?
Drug use is a major problem in the commercial trucking industry. Many drivers use stimulants to help them stay awake and alert out on the road, especially when they are driving at night or for several hours in a row. While many drivers simply drink coffee or another caffeinated beverage, others use cocaine or methamphetamines.
Truck drivers have tight deadlines that require them to be on the road for many hours at a time. Many commercial vehicle drivers do not think they can stay focused without help from illegal substances.
However, stimulants can take hours to fully wear off. When drivers get off the road to take a mandated break, they may drink alcohol or take something else (marijuana, opiates) to counteract the stimulants that are still in their system.
Regular use of alcohol and stimulants can quickly develop into a habit that becomes hard to break. Over time, drug and alcohol addiction can quickly escalate, and all too soon people will need to consume more of a drug to get the same effect. Drivers relying on drugs and alcohol to get through their workday will eventually be unable to properly function without their daily intake.
Signs of Truck Driver Impairment
There are numerous signs that a truck driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For example, if a truck driver is having trouble staying in a lane, it could be a sign of intoxication. His or her vision may be impaired by alcohol or drugs. Other signs of truck driver impairment include:
- Following other cars too closely
- Drifting onto the shoulder
- Sudden braking
- Driving unusually slowly
- Drifting over the center line
- Running through stop signs or red lights
- Excessive speeding
- Making turns at unsafe speeds
Truck drivers may also exhibit these behaviors as the energy from the stimulants wears off, causing a sudden onset of excessive drowsiness. Some truck drivers may be unable to stay awake at the wheel.
Common Types of Crashes Caused by Impairment
When commercial truck drivers drink alcohol or use amphetamines or other drugs, they increase the risk of many types of crashes, such as:
- Head-on crashes
- Rear-end collisions
- Jackknife accidents
- And more
Can Drivers Face Criminal Charges?
It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or if your blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit. That means the truck driver could face criminal charges if the police determine alcohol or drugs may have been involved in causing the collision. The charges are worse if the crash caused another person to suffer injuries, including fatal injuries.
Drug and Alcohol Regulations for Commercial Truck Drivers
While the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets the limit at 0.04 percent. Truck drivers are also not allowed to have any drugs in their systems besides the ones prescribed by a doctor. If drivers test positive for drugs or their BAC is above the 0.04 limit, the trucking company must take them off active duty.
If a driver is removed from duty because of a positive test, the driver must go through the return to duty process, which includes:
- Evaluation from a substance abuse professional
- Completion of an education program
- Negative test
- Follow-up testing
Commercial truck drivers must also take drug and alcohol tests before they can be employed to drive a commercial truck. Other random tests may also be administered whether drivers are on or off duty. Truck drivers who have exhibited signs of alcohol or drug abuse can be tested because there is reasonable suspicion of a substance use problem.
Are Trucking Companies Required To Test Drivers After a Collision?
You may think trucking companies are required to drug test commercial truck drivers who were involved in any type of collision. However, post-accident drug testing is only required if a crash causes:
- Injuries require medical treatment and the driver received a traffic citation
- A citation was issued and the vehicle suffered disabling damage
Federal regulations state that alcohol testing must be done within two hours of a collision. Drug testing must be done within 32 hours of a collision.
If it has been more than eight hours since the collision, the truck driver’s employer cannot continue to try to do a test. However, trucking companies can be fined for not doing drug testing within a 32-hour window. Trucking companies who fail to drug test may also be audited.
Evidence for a Truck Accident Claim
Regardless of whether a truck driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash, the burden of proof falls on the victim. Gathering evidence from the crash scene can greatly impact your ability to recover compensation for your damages.
While still at the accident scene, you should take note of crash debris and other things, such as the truck driver’s behavior, that may indicate impairment.
For example, if you have reason to believe the truck driver who caused the crash was drunk or under the influence of drugs, be sure to inform the police when they arrive at the scene. It will be helpful if you give the responding officer specific reasons why you think the truck driver was intoxicated.
For example, did you talk to the truck driver after the crash and smell alcohol on his or her breath? Did the truck driver slur when speaking or seem unsteady on his or her feet? These are often tell-tale signs of impairment.
After the crash, you should go to the hospital right away to be diagnosed and treated your injuries. This is a vital step that protects your health and well-being, but it also helps link any injuries you have to the accident.
Once your injuries have stabilized, you should also call a lawyer right away. Evidence can get lost, destroyed, cleared away or overwritten, so having an attorney work to gather it right away is important
For example, an attorney can gather records from the trucking company about the driver. Maybe the truck driver who caused your crash should not have been on the road because of an existing substance abuse problem. The driver may have also had a history of dangerous driving that should have excluded him or her from active duty.
You may be surprised how often trucking companies cut corners in the hiring process. This is just one way trucking company negligence could allow drivers with substance abuse issues to continue getting behind the wheel.
Another key step in gathering evidence early on involves taking steps to preserve the damaged vehicles. Having this wreckage available makes it possible for experts, like accident reconstruction specialists, to further evaluate the extent of damage. This insight can often help clarify the primary cause of a collision. Crash investigations should occur as soon after the incident as possible, which is why calling a lawyer is such a vital step.
Contact Sigman Janssen After a Commercial Truck Crash
When a big rig crash happens, trucking companies quickly get to work trying to escape financial accountability for the damages victims suffered. Despite the severity of a victim’s injuries, trucking companies are much more concerned with saving both themselves and their insurers money.
If you or a loved one were injured in a commercial truck crash in Wisconsin, you need an experienced lawyer with the knowledge and experience to take on insurers, trucking companies and other liable parties. Sigman Janssen has a proven record of success helping injured victims and our services come with no upfront cost.
Call Sigman Janssen today to learn more: (877) 888-5201.