If you're been injured in a collision with a commercial truck and are filing a personal injury case against the driver or trucking company, one of your lawyer's primary focuses will be determining the cause of the accident. In many cases, trucking accidents are not just caused by straight-forward driving errors. Often, there are underlying factors that contributed to the driver's errors. While fatigue, distraction and poor training can all cause drivers to make mistakes behind the wheel, there's one common cause of accidents of which you should be especially aware: drug and alcohol abuse.
The Prevalence of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among Truck Drivers
The National Transportation Safety Board has been keeping data on drug and alcohol abuse in truckers for more than 25 years, and what they're finding is not good. According to recent studies, about 35% of truckers involved in accidents test positive for illegal drugs or some sort. Alcohol and marijuana are the most frequently used, but methamphetamine use is also worrisome. In one survey, 85% of drivers stated that methamphetamine was easily obtained at most truck stops.
Why are drug and alcohol abuse so prevalent among truck drivers? Many claim to take drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine to stay awake. However, these drugs have the unfortunate side effects of hallucinations, changed perceptions, and poor reaction time -- all of which contribute to accidents. Alcohol and marijuana are sometimes used out of boredom, but they tend to make drivers sleepy and slow their reaction times. Even though drivers are made well aware of the dangers of alcohol use behind the wheel during training, the United States has a higher frequency of positive alcohol tests among truck drivers than any other nation. A scary 12.5% of all US truckers tested positive for alcohol in one international study.
Drug and Alcohol Testing For Truck Drivers
Since drug and alcohol abuse are so common among truckers, all accident investigations typically include drug and alcohol testing of the driver. In fact, Department of Transportation laws require testing whenever a driver is involved in a fatal crash, or when he or she receives a traffic citation for an accident that causes an injury. Your lawyer will be given access to the results of these tests and can use them in building a strong personal injury case against the driver or commercial trucking company.
How Drug Test Results Affect Your Personal Injury Case
If the driver who hit you tests positive for alcohol or an illegal drug, this factor will make it very easy for your lawyer to build a strong case on your behalf. Usually when drugs or alcohol are thought to have contributed to the accident, your case will be against the driver, not against the trucking company as a whole. To build a personal injury case, your lawyer essentially has to demonstrate that the driver acted negligently and that this negligence led to the accident, which in turn led to your injuries. In the case of drug or alcohol use, establishing negligence is very straightforward; driving under the influence is clearly illegal and looked upon as highly irresponsible by judges.
If the driver tests negative for drugs and alcohol, this does not mean you don't have a personal injury case. There are many other ways in which drivers can act negligently. Skipping scheduled breaks, fudging weigh-ins, watching movies while driving, texting behind the wheel and failing to signal before changing lanes are all common contributors to accidents. Your trucking accidents lawyer will use accident reports, maintenance schedules, driver break records, and witness statements to gather information and build as strong a case as possible.
Drugs and alcohol are unfortunately common contributors to trucking accidents in the United States. If you've been injured in an accident related to substance abuse, it's important to pursue your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. Doing so will not only ensure your medical expenses are covered, but will also help increase awareness of this ongoing problem. As more and more drug and alcohol-related cases emerge, drivers will become more aware of the chances they are taking by getting behind the wheel when under the influence. They're taking chances with their jobs, their own safety, and the safety of everyone else on the road.