How Common is it for Truck Drivers to Drink and Drive?
Drunk driving is unfortunately common on American highways and roadways. About one-third of all fatal traffic crashes involve drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08%.
Despite federal laws that regulate how long commercial truck drivers can drive in a single stretch and mandate breaks between shifts, commercial truck drivers are often under a lot of pressure from their employers to make delivery deadlines. This can negatively impact their mental and emotional health. Studies have shown that 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.
Drivers of large commercial trucks had the lowest percentage of driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) convictions in a five-year period of any group of motorists. Around 1% of commercial truck drivers have prior DWI convictions in the past five years, compared to 3.1% of passenger vehicle drivers, 3.2% of light truck (such as pickup truck) drivers, 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 four hours of going on duty or operating a commercial vehicle. Alcohol is not allowed inside the cab of a commercial truck.
If a truck driver gets into a crash and survives, their employer must test them for alcohol and controlled substances within eight hours of the accident. If they cannot administer the test in time, the employer has to record why they did not administer the test.
Despite intoxication being prohibited by the FMCSA, truck drivers may rely on alcohol to deal with their irregular schedules and long driving times. They can still be required to work long, uninterrupted 14-hour shifts with only a minimum of a 10-hour break beforehand. Over a period of seven to eight consecutive days, they can drive up to 60 to 70 hours on duty.
Poor working conditions can make trucking difficult and stressful, putting some truck drivers at risk of abusing alcohol and drugs.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE HURT IN A CRASH WITH A LARGE TRUCK
If you suffer 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. Try to take these other steps after a truck accident as well:
Call the police.
Call 911 to alert the local authorities and emergency medical services of the crash and to let them know if you or anyone else is 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 serves as crucial documentation of the accident, including producing identifying information of all the vehicles and drivers involved.
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 license plate numbers, contact, and insurance information of all drivers in the accident, including the truck driver.
Get medical treatment.
Schedule an appointment 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 internal injuries, such as bleeding or organ damage, that your doctor may discover through diagnostic testing.
Call an experienced truck accident lawyer.
A truck accident can become complex because of the multiple parties involved, including the truck driver and their employer. You may also have to deal with insurance companies and the many federal trucking regulations that can impact liability.
The guidance of an experienced St. Louis truck accident lawyer can help you navigate trucking regulations to get the compensation you need, especially if your accident was caused by an intoxicated 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.
Originally published March 7, 2022. Updated January 15, 2024.