Fully loaded commercial semi-trucks have the potential to cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities when they are involved in crashes on busy highways. It is essential to the safety of every driver and passenger on the road that these rigs are handled only by trained, experienced drivers and that these drivers are sober and drug-free at all times. There is very little room for error when driving a semi-truck, and even a single beer with dinner or an over-the-counter cold medicine could be enough to compromise a truck driver’s skill and judgment.
At Keller & Keller in Albuquerque, we are committed to holding negligent truck drivers and their employers accountable when they cause a crash that leaves others injured or dead. One of the factors we always consider when investigating a truck crash is whether the driver may have been impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Substances That Could Impair a Truck Driver’s Ability
Truck drivers are required by law to prioritize safety and refrain from using any substances that could impair their ability to operate their vehicles safely. Whether the driver was intentionally impaired or not won’t matter if they caused a fatal or serious injury crash.
Negligent truck drivers can be impaired by:
- Alcohol. Consuming alcohol can impair judgment, coordination, reaction time, and overall cognitive abilities. It is strictly prohibited for truck drivers to operate a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.04% or higher, which is lower than the limit for non-commercial drivers.
- Over-the-counter drugs. Certain over-the-counter medications can cause drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, and cognitive impairment. Examples include antihistamines, sleep aids, cough and cold medications, and some pain relievers. It is important for truck drivers to read warning labels and consult with health care professionals to determine the potential effects of these medications.
- Prescription medication. Prescription drugs can have side effects that impair driving ability. Drugs such as painkillers, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, and some antidepressants can cause drowsiness, dizziness, slowed reaction time, and confusion. Truck drivers should carefully follow the instructions and warnings provided by health care professionals when taking prescription drugs.
- Street drugs. The use of illegal drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or hallucinogens, can severely impair a truck driver's judgment, coordination, perception, and reaction time. These substances are strictly prohibited for all drivers, including truck drivers.
It's important to note that truck drivers are subject to regular drug and alcohol testing as part of federal regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These regulations are in place to ensure the safety of both the truck driver and others on the road. Violations of these regulations can lead to severe consequences, including loss of commercial driving privileges, fines, and even criminal charges.
Catastrophic Accidents Caused by Impaired Truck Drivers
These substances affect a driver’s reaction time, judgment, coordination, focus, and alertness. When that happens, any of the following kinds of accidents could result:
- Rear-end collisions. Impaired truck drivers may fail to maintain a safe following distance or react in time to slow or stopped traffic ahead, resulting in rear-end collisions. The sheer size and weight of commercial trucks can lead to significant damage and injuries in such accidents.
- Head-on collisions. Impaired truck drivers may veer into oncoming traffic, causing head-on collisions. These types of accidents are particularly dangerous due to the force of impact and the potential for catastrophic injuries or fatalities.
- Rollover accidents. Impaired truck drivers may lose control of their vehicles, leading to rollover accidents. The combination of impaired judgment, reduced coordination, and excessive speed can cause a truck to tip over, potentially colliding with other vehicles or blocking multiple lanes of traffic.
- Jackknife accidents. Impaired truck drivers may experience difficulty in controlling their vehicles, leading to jackknife accidents. This occurs when the trailer of the truck swings outward, forming a sharp angle with the cab. Jackknife accidents can result in multi-vehicle collisions and significant property damage.
- Intersection collisions. Impaired truck drivers may fail to obey traffic signals, stop signs, or yield signs at intersections, resulting in collisions with other vehicles. These accidents can occur due to impaired judgment, reduced reaction time, or distracted driving.