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Dangers of Drugged Trucking Accidents

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on November 28, 2020

Almost every driver on the road understands the dangers of driving while intoxicated, whether it be by alcohol or by drugs. Both substances can severely limit a driver’s reaction times and ability to safely operate a vehicle, often leading to traumatic and deadly auto accidents. But few drivers are aware of how prevalent drug use is among commercial drivers, especially truck drivers.

Alcohol and Drug Regulations for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers often work long hours as they travel across the country, often taking the same monotonous routes multiple times a month. There is a constant danger of fatigue, which can set in if a driver does not take enough rest breaks or stop to get a good night’s sleep. While there are restrictions on the number of hours a driver can operate a big-rig or semi-truck (referred to as the Hours of Service (HOS)), drivers are often pushed to skirt the rules or outright break them by their parent companies to complete orders on time. To avoid falling asleep at the wheel, some may choose to take certain drugs to keep themselves awake. This can include everything from illegal substances like cocaine to prescription drugs such as Adderall.

Both actions, however, are highly illegal and dangerous to other drivers on the road. In addition to the HOS, truck drivers also have strict limitations on what substances they can have in their blood when behind the wheel. This includes strong regulations about blood alcohol content (BAC). For normal drivers, the limit in the state of Washington and much of the country is 0.08%, but for truck drivers, the limit is 0.04%. This limit is designed to prevent drunk truck driving accidents and ensure that drivers are able to safely operate their vehicles.

With regards to drugs, drivers are required to submit for random, unscheduled testing throughout the year if they wish to use a CDL (commercial license) in Washington, according to RCW 46.32.110. If a driver tests positive for drugs, or a trucking company allows a driver who tested positive to operate a vehicle, both parties can face stiff penalties. In addition to these random tests, police officers may request a test if a truck driver is involved in a serious accident where someone was injured or died.

How Prevalent Are Drugged Driving Accidents Among Truckers?

Research into drug use among truckers is complicated, as the sources of data can vary. In some instances, drug use is reported through surveys that rely on a truck’s honesty, while others involve limited testing data. However, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has compiled several studies into drug and alcohol use among trucks to identify how prevalent it is.

In a recent year, DOT determine that 0.7% of truckers tested positive in random tests, 1.8% of truckers tested positive prior to being hired, and 2.8% of truckers tested positive after an accident. That final number is the most alarming, as it suggests that one out of 50 trucking accidents involved an impaired driver. It is also surprisingly higher than the number of truck drivers who were impaired by alcohol during a collision, which the report states was only 0.1%.

However, a recent hearing before the House of Representatives calls into question the reliability of certain tests. Drugs can be tested in two ways: hair samples and urine samples. Urine samples are the only federally accepted form of drug testing for truck drivers and are generally believed to determine if a driver currently has drugs in their system, while hair samples provide a deeper understanding of a driver’s history of drug use. But in the “Under Pressure: The State of Trucking in America” hearing, representatives from the Trucking Alliance reported to the House of Representatives that when both tests are conducted on a new driver, urine samples only showed a 1% positive rate; in contrast, hair tests showed an 8.6%, suggesting that many drivers are being allowed on the road with a history of drug use. The Alliance went on to say, “thousands of habitual drug users are skirting a system designed to prohibit drug use in transportation” and that these testing errors constitute a “public safety issue.”

Holding Negligent Truck Drivers Accountable

Based on the Trucking Alliance’s report, it is likely that there are more drugged drivers on the road than previously thought, which can put numerous drivers at risk of being injured or killed in catastrophic trucking accidents. Ignoring the strict rules regarding alcohol and drug use puts everyone on the road in danger and constitutes a clear act of negligence on the part of the truck driver.

If you were injured in an accident with a truck driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you should immediately contact Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. Our Seattle truck accident attorneys have extensive experience getting compensation from trucking insurance companies for injured clients and can provide sound legal representation during your claim. Given how devastating a trucking accident can be, you are likely in desperate need of financial compensation to cover your medical bills and recovery. Do not give up your chance to file a claim. Call our offices today at (425) 228-3860 or toll-free at (888) 228-3860and schedule a free consultation.

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