It does not take a stretch of the imagination to realize that truck accidents are far more serious than car accidents. Trucks are much larger than passenger vehicles, so they bring more force into a collision than a normal car would. However, the numbers involved are staggering: While cars typically weigh close to 3,000 pounds, empty trucks frequently eclipse 30,000, while tractor trailers that are full of cargo – and most of them that are on the roads are full of cargo – they can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, or nearly 27 times that of a passenger vehicle. To make matters worse, trucks are higher off the ground than most passenger vehicles. This means that the fenders of a truck frequently pass over those of a car, eliminating the protections that those fenders provide and striking the car at a height that causes head and neck injuries at a much higher level. This is why, in fatal truck accidents that involve a truck and a passenger vehicle, the fatality was in the passenger vehicle 97% of the time.
Despite these significant dangers, impaired truck driving is still a serious issue. One would think that truckers would take their responsibility to drive safely even more seriously because of the increased dangers of a truck accident. Unfortunately, this is not the case, with drunk or drugged truckers causing thousands of serious truck accidents every year.
The Problem of Drunk Truck Driving
Everyone knows that people who drink and drive cause more accidents than those who drive while sober. Thanks in large part to advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), figures and statistics that link drunk or drugged driving to causing car accidents abound. However, the same cannot be said for impaired truck driving because numbers describing how dangerous it is for a regular driver to drive a passenger vehicle do not translate well to truckers. This is because truck drivers are held to a higher standard, when it comes to the legal level of blood alcohol content (BAC), and because truckers know that they can lose their license and, therefore, their livelihood if they get arrested and convicted for impaired driving.
As a result, figures collected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) show that impaired truck drivers who are under the influence of alcohol are actually quite rare. The FMCSA studied 967 vehicle accidents that involved at least one truck and at least one injury between 2001 and 2003. The crashes happened in 17 different states, and the study investigated hundreds of different elements that were in play in each crash. According to the study, though, the trucker's alcohol use was only a factor in 0.8% of the crashes. While this is a low percentage, though, there were an estimated 141,000 truck accidents during the study period, meaning there were approximately 1,000 truck accidents that were caused by a trucker who was impaired by alcohol.
This number is likely kept low because of the increased attention paid to truck drivers when it comes to laws for operating under the influence (OUI). While non-commercial drivers have a legal BAC limit of 0.08%, most states have adopted the FMCSA's recommended higher standard of 0.04% for commercial drivers like truckers. While this likely serves as a significant deterrent for truckers to not drive while impaired by alcohol, a more powerful one is likely the fact that truck drivers can lose their commercial drivers' license for a lengthy time if they get convicted for OUI, even if it was only their first offense. Because this license is the source of their income, truckers often take drunk driving very seriously.
The Problem of Drugged Truck Driving
While truck drivers rarely drive while under the influence of alcohol, that does not mean that impaired truck driving is not a serious issue. Drugged driving can make it just as hard as drunk driving to operate a truck safely. Unfortunately, according to the FMCSA's study, impaired truck driving happens far more often because of drugs.
In their study, the FMCSA found that nearly half of the accidents involved a trucker being impaired by drugs of some sort. 26.3% of the time, the drugs involved were a prescription drug, most of which warn users not to use heavy machinery, like a truck, while taking it. 17.3% of the time, the drug involved in the truck accident was an over-the-counter drug, which can still have significant side-effects. Finally, 2.3% of the truck crashes in the FMCSA's study involved a truck driver who was under the influence of illegal drugs, like marijuana or cocaine.
Despite drugged truck driving being a far more prevalent issue than drunk truck driving, it is far less likely to get solved anytime soon. This is because, while police have effective ways of enforcing drunk driving laws, they are still struggling with how to handle drugged driving laws. For example, while there are effective BAC tests that can be used to show that a trucker was too drunk to drive, there are no similar tests for drugs. This makes it far less likely for a trucker who is impaired by drugs to be caught than a trucker who is behind the wheel while drunk. As a result, there is less deterring a truck driver from hitting the roads while feeling the effects of a drug, whether it is a legal, illegal, or a prescription drug.
D.C. Personal Injury Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
Impaired truck drivers cause far more accidents than drivers who are careful and who drive sober. If you or someone you love has been hurt because a trucker did not take your safety seriously and got behind the wheel while impaired, you should be compensated for your losses in the crash.
This is where the truck accident attorneys at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian can help. By fighting for your rights and interests, we can ensure you get the compensation you are entitled to. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.