How Common is it for Truck Drivers to Drink and Drive?

Drunk driving is unfortunately common on American highways and roadways. Over one-third of all fatal traffic crashes involve drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.8%.

Despite federal laws regulating how long commercial truck drivers can drive in a single stretch and laws mandating breaks between shifts, commercial truck drivers are often under a lot of pressure from their employers to make delivery deadlines. This can negatively impact mental and emotional health. Studies have shown how long shifts can make truck drivers more likely to consume drugs and alcohol.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a truck accident caused by an intoxicated truck driver, contact our St. Louis truck accident lawyers for guidance on your legal options.

How Often Do Truck Drivers Drink and Drive?

Alcohol impairment is not the most common cause of commercial truck crashes. In 2019, only 2% of drivers operating large trucks were impaired by alcohol at the time of their accidents.

Drivers of large commercial trucks also had the lowest percentage of driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) convictions in a five-year period of any other group of motorists. Only 1% of commercial truck drivers had a prior DWI conviction in the past five years, compared to 3.1% of passenger vehicle drivers, 3.2% of light truck (such as pickup truck) owners, and 4.6% of motorcyclists.

The low percentages of drunk driving among truck drivers could result from strict federal trucking laws. Since truck drivers usually operate their vehicles on interstate highways and roadways, they are under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations.

The laws include rules on alcohol use, including post-accident testing to check for alcohol and drugs.

What are the Federal Trucking Regulations for Alcohol Use?

According to FMCSA regulations, a commercial truck driver is prohibited from drinking alcohol within 4 hours of going on duty or operating a commercial vehicle. Alcohol is not allowed inside the cab.

If a truck driver gets into a crash and survives, the company must test them for alcohol and controlled substances within 8 hours of the accident. Regardless of the type of accident, the employer has to record why if they did not administer the test.

However, truck drivers may rely on alcohol to deal with their irregular schedules and long driving times. They are still required to work long, uninterrupted shifts of 14 hours with only a minimum of a 10-hour break beforehand. Over 7 to 8 consecutive days, they can drive up to 60 to 80 hours on duty.

Poor working conditions may make it more difficult for truckers to drive safely, increasing the risks of injuries and truck crashes.

What to Do If You’re Hurt in a Crash with a Large Truck

If you suffer serious injuries in a collision with a truck driver who you suspect may have been under the influence, the most important thing you need to worry about is getting medical attention. You should do a few things after a truck accident when you suffered only minor injuries. 

1.    Call the police.

Call 911 for the local authorities and emergency medical services if you and anyone else are injured. Tell the emergency dispatcher about the number of people involved in the truck accident, so they can send emergency vehicles as needed.

A police report is crucial to have accurate documentation of the accident, including the information of all the vehicles and drivers involved.

2.    Gather evidence from the scene.

If you can safely get out of your vehicle with no traffic around you, you can document the accident scene with your smartphone. Take photos and videos of the vehicles, road conditions, and the weather at the time of your accident.

You can also collect the contact and insurance information of all drivers in the accident. Collect the contact and insurance information and the truck’s license plate number from the truck driver.

3.    Go to your medical provider.

Schedule an appointment for you and your passengers to evaluate your physical condition if you didn’t get emergency medical care. Although you may not notice immediate injuries from your accident, there could be less visible injuries, such as internal bleeding, that your doctor may discover through diagnostic testing.

4.    Call a truck accident lawyer.

A truck accident can become complex because of the multiple parties involved, including the truck driver, their employer, and more. You may also have to deal with their insurance companies and how the myriad of federal trucking regulations can impact liability.

The guidance of an experienced truck accident lawyer can help you navigate trucking regulations to get the compensation you need, especially if your accident was caused by a drunk truck driver.

Get Legal Guidance for Your Truck Accident

Although accidents with drunk truck drivers are rare, you should know what to do if you find yourself injured in one of these collisions. The attorneys at Cofman Townsley understand the nuances of truck accident injuries, and we take on the insurance carriers to ensure you receive appropriate compensation.

Contact us for a free consultation if a commercial truck accident has affected your life.