A truck driver was arrested in late March 2017 after driving from Seattle to Massachusetts under the influence of cocaine, LSD, and crystal methamphetamine. The driver was caught by police outside of his truck at a gas station. Police noticed he was locked out of the truck, acting combative, and showing signs of drug use. He then admitted to police that he had used drugs. Police subsequently arrested the trucker.
All states, including Tennessee, have laws prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. The laws apply to all drivers, whether driving on the job or for personal use. In addition to state laws, commercial truck drivers must follow federal regulations adopted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These rules expressly prohibit driving while intoxicated. They also address prescription medication. For example, a driver cannot take a controlled substance or prescription medication without a prescription written by a licensed doctor or medical practitioner. There are certain medications that will prohibit a driver from being able to operate a truck under any circumstance.
After a truck or 18 wheeler crash, truck drivers may be subject to drug testing. Local law enforcement, including the police, sheriff’s department, or highway patrol, may decide to conduct its own drug testing of the defendant. Truckers believed to be under the influence of alcohol or another drug may be arrested at the scene and face criminal charges for their actions. There may be a criminal investigation before the District Attorney formally brings charges in criminal court.
Negligent truckers may also face civil liability in a truck accident case if they injure another driver, passenger, or pedestrian in the accident. While criminal and civil charges are separate, information in the criminal case file can be useful in civil court. This information includes the police report, witness statements, the defendant truck driver’s toxicology report, and any arrest affidavits.
While an alcohol toxicology report may be easy to interpret by looking at the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level, intoxication levels of other drugs that test positive may be more difficult to interpret. In those cases, it may be necessary to retain a toxicologist as an expert witness. Toxicology experts can review drug test results in detail and testify to the defendant’s level of intoxication at the time of the truck accident.
Research Behind Truckers and Drug Use
Research shows it is not uncommon at all for a truck driver to be under the influence of alcohol, stimulants, or other medication behind the wheel. Some truckers take stimulants to stay awake behind the wheel, especially during long shifts. Stimulants most often consumed for this reason are alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, and cocaine, per a study published in 2013. Research further indicates that when under the influence, commercial truck drivers are more likely to fall asleep or take unnecessary risks on the road. Both of these lead to an increase in car accidents.
Medication usage can be dangerous if a trucker is in poor health. In a 2017 study published by the University of Utah Health Sciences, researchers found that poor health of trucker drivers directly contributed to truck accidents. Medical conditions linked to poor driving performance include heart disease, low back pain, and diabetes. Drivers with multiple conditions like these will see their risk of getting into an accident noticeably increase. Per the study, truck drivers are susceptible to developing poor health because they sit for long periods of time while driving, have trouble finding nutritious meals while out on the road, and deal with less than ideal sleeping conditions.
If you have been hurt in a truck accident in Tennessee or a nearby state, call the truck accident lawyers at Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz today at 1-800-529-4004 to discuss how we can help protect your legal rights.