We spend much of our lives at work. For many of us that means going to the office, factory or construction site. We see and speak with other people throughout the day.
Truck driving is different. Truckers may spend long, solitary hours on the road. Miles and miles of highway pass as the hours turn from day to night. In past articles, I’ve written about some of the health problems commonly seen in truckers. Many of those health problems are tied to long, sedentary work days.
Truck driving is not just a solitary profession. Your compensation is tied to driving extended miles for extended hours. The hours, both solitary and long, create a situation that lends itself to impairment.
Drugs And Impairment Are A Problem
A Reuters article discussing research into drug use by truckers, opens with a warning about the problem:
Truck drivers have challenging jobs and too often they put their own health and safety, as well as others, in danger by taking stimulants and other drugs to get through a shift. . .
The Reuters article discusses some of the most common drugs used by commercial truck drivers. They are:
We should all realize the danger of drinking and driving. Groups like MADD have worked hard to reduce the rate of drunken driving. Alcohol is a depressant. It reduces and impairs thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. All these functions are essential for safe driving.
Some truck drivers use marijuana to “come down” from the high of other drugs. While majrijuana use may not be as dangerous as many other drugs, it is still not safe to drive under its influence. Marijuana use impairs judgment, motor coordination and reaction time.
As many states begin to legalize marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use, I’ve written articles about the impact of usage on both driving and workplace safety. Not many lawyers have tried injury cases involving both car accidents and workplace accidents where impairment or drug testing were issues. I have. With increased legalization, we need to develop better rules and testing to insure drivers and workers are not endangered by the impairment of others.
Amphetamines and methamphetamines stimulate the central nervous system. These drugs produce feelings of euphoria. Commercial truck drivers may use these substances to stay awake for longer hours.
Cocaine is also a stimulant used by truckers to stay awake and alert for longer hours. Stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine can result in false feelings of confidence by drivers as well as other dangerous activities like speeding, aggressiveness, loss of control, inattention and mental agitation. Many truckers on stimulants are suffering fatigue resulting in poor judgment that is masked by the false feelings of alertness created by the stimulant.
Car Drivers Are At Greater Risk
Impaired truck drivers are certainly a danger to themselves. However, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) points out:
Most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants. The main problem is the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles.
As I like to say — In a crash between an eighteen wheeler and a car, the car loses. In grim statistics, 97% of the deaths in crashes between commercial trucks and passenger cars, involved a passenger of the car. Commercial trucks are much bigger and heavier than the cars around them.
Yet, it’s not just the sheer size and weight of a commercial truck in the actual crash that puts car passengers at risk. That same size and weight makes commercial trucks more difficult to maneuver and stop. That magnifies the impact of driver impairment.
Penalties For Impaired Driving By Truckers
An after-crash penalty will never restore a person’s life or health. Because of that, we should work proactively to reduce impairment and accidents. I’ve written several articles about drug testing and medical examinations for truck drivers. If you’ve read some of my past articles on medical certifications, you know there are numerous cases of sham certifiers arrested for providing certifications without honest or genuine medical testing. Fraudulent examiners in Alabama and Georgia have been convicted in recent years of providing fake certifications so dangerous truckers could continue putting lives at risk on Alabama roads and highways.
While penalties will never restore life or health, commercial truckers do face the suspension or revocation of their commercial drivers license (CDL). They also face potential criminal fines and penalties. In our eighteen wheeler (or other commercial truck) accident cases, we look closely at the driver’s history and testing. We also investigate what the trucking company did (or did not do) to allow a dangerous impaired driver on the highway.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we frequently author articles about commercial truck accidents. In recent years, we have focused on several issues that can improve highway safety for our families in Alabama. In our articles we’ve frequently discussed the need for side under-ride protection, the problems with medical certifications for truckers, safety issues related to truck driver health, the lack of real safety programs by some trucking companies and the danger of distracted driving by truckers. If you have questions, let us know. We are happy to provide information or discuss issues that make Alabama highways safer for our families and neighbors.