Alcohol and Drug Use in Accidents Involving Trucks and Tractor Trailors

In Denver, Colorado and throughout the United States, drunk driver laws are in place to limit the number of accidents involving tractor trailers that result from alcohol or drug violations. Drug and alcohol testing is routine in the trucking industry today, and companies that employ commercial truck drivers must have a testing program for their drivers. Thanks to these safety standards, only about one to three percent of Truck Accidents are caused by alcohol use by the truck driver. However, these preventable accidents still contribute to hundreds of injuries each year. At Bachus & Schanker, LLC in Denver, Colorado, we help victims of accidents involving tractor trailers. If you believe a violation of drunk driver laws contributed to or caused your accident, we can investigate your case and help evaluate your claim.

Drunk Driver Laws and Testing

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), following traffic accidents involving tractor trailers, a mandatory alcohol and drug test is conducted on drivers whose performance could have contributed to the accident, and for all fatal accidents, even if the driver is not cited for a moving traffic violation. Typically, two tests are required to determine if a person has an alcohol concentration that violates federal or state drunk driver laws. First, a screening test is conducted; any result less than 0.02 alcohol concentration is considered a “negative” test. If the alcohol concentration is 0.02 or higher, then a second confirmation test must be conducted. The confirmation test results determine any actions taken. Drug testing is conducted by analyzing a driver’s urine specimen and the analysis is performed at laboratories certified and monitored by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Drug and Alcohol Violations

A study by the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety of interstate tractor-trailer drivers found that 15 percent of all truck drivers had marijuana in their systems, 12 percent had non-prescription stimulants in their systems, five percent had prescription stimulants in their systems, two percent had cocaine in their systems, and fewer than one percent had alcohol in their systems.

These alcohol and drug violations can significantly decrease the driver’s ability to maintain control of the truck and avoid accidents.

As with drivers of private vehicles, a commercial truck driver does not have to be legally drunk to be affected by alcohol or other substances. A low blood alcohol content level can impair the ability to drive by slowing a truck driver’s reaction time and delaying the decision-making process. The federal government prohibits commercial truck drivers from operating their vehicles with a BAC at or greater than 0.04 percent. In Colorado and throughout the United States, truck drivers who violate drunk driver laws may be subject to fines and other disciplinary action.

Additionally, while federal regulations restrict the number of hours a truck driver can drive in a single day, some truck drivers still try to find ways to drive longer and stay awake. Unfortunately, drugs such as methamphetamine and over-the-counter stimulants are easy for truck drivers to come by. Just like alcohol, these drugs can impair a driver’s decision-making capabilities and reaction time, increasing the risk of devastating accidents and injuries.

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