Fleet Owner recently reported only 2 percent of trucking accidents are caused by drunk drivers.
And it’s true. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows only 2 percent of truckers involved in fatal accidents have a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of .08, compared to 23 percent for passenger cars, 22 percent for light trucks and 28 percent for motorcycles.
However, our Tuscaloosa trucking accident attorneys understand statistics in this case can be misleading for several reasons. First and foremost, you don’t have to have a BAC level of .08 to be considered drunk behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. Many states have laws that consider a truck driver drunk with a BAC level as low as .02 or .04.
In Alabama, the law is .04, half the legal limit of .08 for other motorists.
Truckers convicted of DUI face loss of livelihood and may even have difficulty in securing new employment as a trucker after reinstatement. For these drivers, avoiding a drunk-driving conviction is paramount. But that doesn’t mean they were not driving under the influence of illegal, prescription or over-the-counter narcotics at the time of an accident. As we reported earlier this summer on our Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog, some 300 commercial truck drivers were taken off the road in June by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration during a crackdown aimed at violators of drug testing and reporting requirements.
And there is growing call for a national database to track drug-testing results amid concerns drivers are job-hopping to avoid the consequences of a positive test or to avoid submitting to testing altogether. A 2/?p=1007 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that prescription or illegal drug use was the leading cause of large truck accidents — accounting for 26 percent, or more than 1 in 4. Additionally, over-the-counter medication was listed as the fourth-leading cause of accidents — accounting for some 18 percent.
Other common causes — speeding (2), failure to address blind spots (5), fatigue (6), failure to use signal (7), distracted driving (8), and road rage (10) — may also involve drugs or alcohol.
The truth of the matter is that trucking accidents are on the rise in the United States. While large trucks account for only about 4 percent of the nation’s registered vehicles, they are involved in more than 10 percent of all fatal accidents. Some 3,675 motorists were killed and 80,000 injured in 2010, according to data just released by the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s up 9 percent compared to 2009.
The legalization of medical marijuana in 17 states has further muddied the waters. Since 1996 when California legalized marijuana for medical purposes, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have followed suit, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
There are often multiple, complex reasons for a trucking accident. Seeking the counsel of an experienced personal injury or wrongful death law firm is critical in the wake of a serious or fatal accident. Whether a driver was under the influence may not be known until after thorough investigation. A drivers BAC at the scene is just one piece of that puzzle.
Alabama Tractor-Trailer Accidents and Hour-of-Service Limits, By Cross & Smith LLC, Aug. 13, 2012.
Trucker Shortage Increasing Accident Risks in Alabama, By Cross & Smith LLC, Aug. 1, 2012.