Drunk drivers represent an ever-present danger on American roads. Their reckless, selfish actions destroy thousands of lives every year, inflicting physical, emotional, and financial pain on innocent victims and families.
More dangerous and reckless than a drunk driver behind the wheel of a car is a drunk driver behind the wheel of a large truck. The sheer size, weight, and destructive power of a truck increase the dangers associated with a collision. Truckers who drink and drive put even more lives at risk, with even more catastrophic consequences, than do drunk passenger car drivers. In this blog, we discuss the unforgivable tragedy of accidents caused by drunk truck drivers. If you or a loved one has already suffered at the hands of a drunk truck driver then speak to a truck accident attorney today to discuss your recovery options.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the American trucking industry. In addition, the FMCSA publishes detailed data about crashes involving large trucks on U.S. roadways. In the past several years, America’s roadways have witnessed, on average, about 100,000 injury-causing crashes, and around 4,000 fatal crashes involving large trucks, per year. Commercial truck accidents can cause devastating consequences for all involved. They cause widespread destruction, catastrophic injuries, and death.
In the United States, alcohol-use commonly contributes to causing motor vehicle accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than one-quarter of all U.S. traffic fatalities, in any given year, involved impaired drivers. Despite long-running public awareness campaigns and criminal enforcement efforts, Americans continue to drink and drive, and, consequently, destroy lives.
Statistics related to drinking and driving are most disturbing. One piece of “good” news is that truckers are far less likely to cause an accident by driving drunk than passenger car drivers. In fact, just 3.6 percent of truck accident fatalities on U.S. roadways in 2017 involved an impaired truck driver. Just 2.5 percent of those drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08 for passenger car drivers. In comparison, that same year, 23.9 percent of passenger car fatalities involved a driver who had been drinking. Almost all of the impaired drivers involved in fatal accidents had a BAC above the legal limit.
The relative rarity of drunk truck drivers may provide drivers with some comfort. However, not for those whose lives have been shattered by the 3.6 percent of truckers whose impairment caused a fatal crash.
In Washington, as in most other states, truck drivers face severe consequences if they have a drink and drive. For starters, when truck drivers have a BAC of 0.04, they are considered legally impaired. Truck drivers. Passenger car drivers are permitted to operate their motor vehicles with double the BAC as is permissible for truck drivers.
Drunk driving comes with well-known criminal penalties, which may include fines, probation, community service, and jail time. In addition, in Washington State, commercial drivers with a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction face an immediate one year disqualification of their Commercial Drivers License. In other words, a truck driver convicted of drunk driving loses his ability to drive a truck for a year for his first offense. If a truck driver is convicted of a second DUI offense, they will completely lose their ability to legally operate a commercial vehicle.
The severity of these penalties may deter truck driver impairment, explaining the relatively low rate of incidents involving drunk truck driving. Unfortunately, although stiff penalties might reduce how many truckers drive after drinking, they do not eliminate the problem. Commercial truck drivers are human, and lapses in judgment can lead to poor decision-making.
What happens when a trucker has a few drinks and decides to drive? To start, being a truck driver doesn’t make a person any less susceptible to the dangerous effects of alcohol. The effects of alcohol impairment include:
Behind the wheel, for all drivers, the effects of alcohol impairment may result in:
Commercial truck and passenger car accidents have more or less the same causes. However, commercial truck collisions typically have more severe consequences. Common causes of drunk truck driving crashes include:
Any of the accidents above will predictably lead to fatalities, catastrophic injuries, and widespread property damage.
Let’s pause here to recognize that drinking alcohol is not the only way to dangerously impair a truck driver. Washington State’s DUI laws also apply to drivers impaired by drugs or medications, illegal or prescribed. Additionally, research shows that driving while excessively fatigued, or “drowsy driving,” is just as dangerous as driving with a BAC over 0.08.
Sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as alcohol impairment. Fatigue is particularly problematic among truck drivers because they work long, irregular hours. Further, as a working population, truckers are predominantly older individuals with relatively poor health. Below we discuss signs that may indicate that a truck or passenger car driver is driving while impaired.
So, how do you spot a drunk (or drugged, or fatigued) trucker? Here are some tips:
All drivers should always exercise caution around trucks. On their best days, truckers’ jobs can be extremely difficult. After using drugs or alcohol or getting inadequate sleep, the job becomes dangerous to perform.
What should you do if you are the unfortunate victim of an accident involving a drunk truck driver? Here are some tips:
Drunk truck driving, fortunately, is a relatively rare occurrence on Washington roads. However, you should always be cautious and attentive when driving in the proximity of commercial trucks. You never know what could cause an impairment that has deadly consequences.
If a commercial truck accident has devastated your life, contact an experienced truck accident attorney right away.
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