The Risks and Dangers of Impaired Truck Driving

Truck is shown overturned on a highway after an accident.

If you or someone you love recently suffered severe or fatal injuries in a truck wreck, you may wonder what to do. If you were injured in a truck accident or hit by an 18 wheeler, you may be eligible for compensation. Generally speaking, truck accident laws vary from state to state, including the statute of limitations for filing a truck crash claim. When a truck accident happens because the commercial truck driver was impaired, it is important for the injury victim or family to learn more about filing a claim for truck-accident compensation.

When we think about impaired driving, we usually consider alcohol-related or drug-related impairment. While impaired truck driving accidents certainly can result from commercial truck drivers consuming alcohol or other legal or illegal substances before getting behind the wheel, in some cases fatigued driving can also mirror the results of intoxicated driving. A report from the National Sleep Foundation highlights how drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, if not worse.

Laws Governing Intoxicated Truck Driving

Each state has its own set of laws governing threshold BAC levels for commercial truck drivers, but most states have adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) recommendation that the BAC level for a drunk truck driver is 0.04%. In other words, while most states say that a 0.08% BAC is threshold level for drunk driving in general, commercial truck drivers who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are held to a higher standard.

In addition to a lower BAC threshold for impaired driving, the FMCSA also emphasizes that commercial truck drivers are required to consent to testing to determine whether they have been driving under the influence. More specifically, the FMCSA explains that:

“any person who holds a CDL is considered to have consented to such testing as is required by any State or jurisdiction in the enforcement of being under the influence of alcohol, or have any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol, while on duty, or operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle.”

Accordingly, an impaired truck driver is violating federal law if he or she refuses to submit to testing to determine whether he or she has been driving under the influence of alcohol.

In addition, a driver operating on up to 18 hours without sleep can experience effects equal to someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05, according to the report from the National Sleep Foundation. The Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration mandates through its hours-of-service regulations that truck drivers may only drive for periods not exceeding 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.  

Accidents Caused by Impaired Truck Drivers

Accidents caused by impaired truck drivers are often severe and catastrophic. The following are some facts and figures about impaired truck driving from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI):

  • 4% of large truck drivers who sustained fatal injuries in car accidents in 2017 had a BAC of 0.08% or higher;
  • 29% of passenger vehicle drivers who were killed in crashes had a BAC at or about 0.08%; and
  • Rate of drunk driving among both fatally injured truck drivers and passenger car drivers has declined significantly in the last three decades, but it still remains a cause of deadly collisions on interstates and freeways, major roads, and even neighborhood streets.

 If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries in a truck crash involving an impaired driver, you should discuss your options with a truck accident attorney.

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