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Gregory Perenich
11 May 2022

When Truck Drivers Under the Influence Cause Accidents

Any time a driver chooses to get behind the wheel while inebriated poses a danger to everyone around them. When truck drivers under the influence cause accidents, they also cause severe injuries and immense property damage.

Truck Drivers Under the Influence: By the Numbers

truck accident lawyersAccording to a Reuters study, around half of truck drivers worldwide admit to drinking and driving. About 30 percent admit to using amphetamines. While these numbers vary immensely from one country to the next, around 9.4 percent of truck drivers drink daily in America, and about 19 percent engage in binge drinking regularly.

Even when truck drivers take care to stop drinking before they get behind the wheel, they can still face serious potential hazards if they fail to allow alcohol to make its way out of their system before they get behind the wheel.

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Why Truck Drivers Drink and Drive?

Truck drivers, unfortunately, have several serious risks for drinking and other potentially dangerous behaviors. Once they start using alcohol to improve sleep or decrease anxiety at night, they may prove more likely to drink at other times of the day, too.

#1. Loneliness

Many truck drivers spend long hours out on the road, separated from friends and family. They may miss out on important occasions regularly and have little time to enjoy those firm relationships. Unfortunately, many truck drivers attempt to deal with that loneliness by drinking, particularly during the evening hours. Unfortunately, sometimes the behavior from the night before can come back to haunt them the next morning as they get behind the wheel while still intoxicated.

#2. Stress

Truck drivers, in general, have very stressful jobs. They spend most of their days out on the road, surrounded by drivers who may not take adequate care despite the presence of large vehicles around them. Not only must they maintain constant awareness of all vehicles on the road to decrease accident risk, they may find themselves under tight deadlines while still dealing with unpredictable challenges: traffic delays, dangerous weather conditions, and dangerous drivers.

#3. Boredom

At the end of a long shift, many truck drivers have few activities waiting for them. They often lead fairly sedentary lifestyles, which means they may not avail themselves of resources in hotels and truck stops. While they wait for the day to end before they get in bed to do it again the next day, some truck drivers may choose to drink to alleviate some of the boredom they may face.

That drinking, however, can get out of hand. Truck drivers may also get bored while actively out on the road, with little to break up the monotony of the miles they have to travel every day. As a result, they may prove, in general, more likely to drink.

#4. Depression or Anxiety

Around 26.9 percent of truck drivers struggle with depression and an estimated 14.5 percent struggle with anxiety. Sometimes, truck drivers may turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, even though alcohol consumption can worsen depression.

High rates of depression or anxiety can also make it more difficult for truck drivers to adequately gauge their alcohol consumption, causing them to consume more than they expect. Sometimes, depression or anxiety can even drive truck drivers to drink during their shifts.

#5. Insomnia

An estimated 20.6 percent of truck drivers struggle with sleep disturbances regularly. Those chronic sleep problems can make it more difficult for truck drivers to stay awake once they get on the road again. To combat insomnia, some truck drivers may choose to drink. Unfortunately, while alcohol consumption can help people fall asleep initially, it may interfere with deep sleep and lead to less overall rest. Furthermore, alcohol consumption just before bed can increase the odds of waking later.

The Challenge Posed by Inebriated Truck Drivers

Truck drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol can have several problems impacting the way they handle their vehicles. Driving under the influence can prove problematic for even drivers of smaller passenger vehicles. Truck drivers control much larger vehicles that require more attention and time to maneuver safely.

Tunnel Vision

High levels of intoxication often result in tunnel vision, making it very difficult for the truck driver to pay attention to what happens around him. Often, tunnel vision can make it difficult, if not impossible, for truck drivers to note other vehicles in their blind spots, which may lead to a higher incidence of sideswipe collisions.

Slowed Reflexes

Under the best circumstances, big trucks need more time to slow and come to a stop. However, intoxicated big truck drivers may have slowed reflexes that make it very difficult to respond to potential hazards they may face on the road. Those slowed reflexes may lead to dangerous collisions when the driver fails to respond to changes in traffic, including other vehicles pulling out abruptly or coming to a stop in front of him.

Decreased Reasoning Skills

Truck drivers must make judgment calls as they drive to ensure that they create a safe experience for themselves and for others who share the road with them. The influence of drugs or alcohol may significantly decrease reasoning skills and the ability to respond to driving challenges.

Decreased reasoning can also cause truck drivers to behave erratically or unpredictably, which may raise the risk that they will cause dangerous, unpredictable collisions.

What Happens When a Truck Driver Under the Influence Causes an Accident?

A truck driver suspected of driving while intoxicated can suffer several potential legal consequences.

#1. Police Response

Immediately after an accident involving significant property damage or injury, common in accidents involving a big truck, the people involved should report it to the police. The police will respond to the scene of the accident.

If the truck driver shows clear signs of intoxication at the accident scene, the police officer who responds will likely ask for a blood alcohol test, either through a blood test or a breathalyzer test. The officer may also conduct a field sobriety test to check the driver’s current overall function. However, a field sobriety test could prove inconclusive, particularly in the case of severe accidents, since other conditions, including brain injury or concussion from the accident, could result in the appearance of intoxication.

#2. Investigation

Suppose the police officer who responds to the scene notes that the truck driver appeared under the influence and a blood alcohol test comes back conclusive for alcohol consumption.

In that case, several parties may need to conduct a further investigation into the accident, including:

  • The insurance company
  • The truck driver’s company
  • A lawyer or lawyers working for victims of the accident

A comprehensive investigation can help provide deeper insight into the driver’s behaviors and what led to the incident. The investigation could, for example, uncover when the driver last consumed alcohol, how much alcohol the driver consumed, and whether the driver habitually chose to consume high quantities of alcohol.

#3. Consequences

Driving while intoxicated, particularly if the intoxicated driver causes an accident, can have heavy penalties. An intoxicated truck driver may face even more extreme penalties related to an accident caused while intoxicated.

Consequences can vary depending on whether the driver has had previous drinking and driving convictions.

However, they may include a variety of potential impacts on the drunk driver.

  • Jail time
  • License loss (one year CDL disqualification for a first offense; three years CDL disqualification for an offense involving hazardous cargo)
  • Fines and fees
  • Permanent revocation of the CDL (for subsequent offenses)

In addition, most trucking companies will not continue to employ a driver convicted of driving under the influence.

#4. Liability

A truck driver who causes an accident due to intoxication will bear liability for the accident, and the truck driver will bear full liability for those actions in most cases. However, the truck driver’s company may share liability for the incident in cases where the company knew about the truck driver’s drinking habit and continued to employ the driver anyway. Truck companies may also be liable in cases where the trucking company pushed the driver to get behind the wheel despite a driver who let the company know about his intoxication and the fact that he did not need to operate the truck at that time.

If you suffer injuries in an accident with a drunk truck driver, working with a lawyer can offer your best chances of fully investigating the incident and getting a better idea of who might bear liability for it, including whether the trucking company could share liability for the incident.

What to Do After an Accident With an Inebriated Truck Driver?

When truck drivers under the influence cause accidents, severe injury and immense property damage often lead to severe damage. You may deserve compensation for the losses you face due to a drunk truck driver accident. However, you should respond carefully to help protect your right to compensation.

Report the Accident

As soon as a truck accident occurs, report the accident to the police. Let the police come to the scene, look at the conditions that may have led to the accident, and write a report.

If you have reason to suspect the truck driver of drinking and driving, you may want to mention your suspicions to the police. Keep in mind that other conditions, including diabetic blood sugar challenges and brain injuries, can cause slurred speech and erratic behavior, which means that behavior at the accident scene may not indicate inebriation.

However, it may often indicate a serious problem, so letting the responding officer know about the behavior you have observed can help protect the driver in the case of an emergency.

Seek Medical Attention as Soon as Possible

Truck accidents generally involve a great deal of force, and a truck accident with an inebriated driver may mean even more force due to the driver’s lack of control over the truck. You may have sustained severe injuries without noticing immediate symptoms, especially if you have an adrenaline rush covering up significant pain. See a medical care professional as soon as possible after your truck accident. A doctor can fully evaluate your condition and let you know what treatment you might need.

Once you have seen a medical professional, follow all instructions regarding your overall care. Your doctor might want you to take specific actions, like physical therapy, to maximize your odds of making a full recovery or may want you to decrease or avoid certain activities while you recover. Following those instructions can prove essential to making a full recovery and protecting your right to file a claim.

Contact a Lawyer

Truck accident claims and drunk driving claims can both prove extremely complicated. You may need a deeper investigation into the exact causes of the accident and what factors may have contributed to the accident, including whether the trucking company may share the blame. Work with a lawyer to learn more about your rights, including who may bear liability for the accident and how you can maximize the compensation you may recover.

Do You Need a Truck Accident Attorney After Your Accident?

Truck accident attorney, Gregory Perenich

If you suffered injuries in your inebriated truck driver accident, you might find that working with an attorney offers valuable insight into your rights after the incident. Contact a truck accident lawyer to schedule a free consultation as soon as possible.