Articles Posted in Drunk Driving Accidents

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Checkpoint-Ahead-Sign-SmallBig rigs are dangerous enough on the road as is, but when a drunk trucker gets behind the wheel, the potential consequences only increase in severity. In Philadelphia, a pedestrian suffered catastrophic injuries when he was hit on the side of the road by a commercial truck operated by a drunken driver. The plaintiff argued that trucking company J.B. Hunt negligently hired an outside contract driver by not thoroughly checking his background, which included a history of DUI incidents.

The jury heard arguments from both sides and deliberated for three hours before ultimately finding J.B. Hunt 40% responsible for the accident and the driver 60% responsible. In addition, the jury awarded the plaintiff $15.5 million in damages. The verdict accounted for $12.2 million of economic damages and $3.3 million for loss of consortium for the plaintiff’s wife.

This case highlighted several issues that may arise in a trucking accident case:

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medical-05-1455836An investigation into a March 2017 fatal accident revealed the truck driver who caused it was under the influence of several types of pills at the time of the crash. The truck driver, just 20 years old, crashed into a bus carrying senior citizen congregants of a Texas church who were coming back from a three day retreat. 13 people ended up dying as a result of the collision. The victims were between 61 and 87 years old.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, in addition to local police, responded to the accident scene. Investigators found five partially smoked marijuana cigarettes in the truck as well as two full marijuana cigarettes. The trucker admitted to having taken prescription pills which led investigators to believe he was under the influence. He admitted to taking Clonazepam, Ambien, and Lexapro. Other pill bottles were found in the truck as well.

The facts of the accident suggest the driver could have been under the influence. One witness was driving behind the truck and saw it driving erratically. For example, the trucker had crossed the center line several times. The witness was so concerned about the erratic driving that he called the local sheriff’s office to report what he was seeing and ask law enforcement to get the truck off the road before somebody got hit. Following this accident, the witness got out of his car to check on everyone. When he talked to the trucker, the trucker admitted to texting while driving and apologized multiple times.

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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.

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Driving under the influence of alcohol is deadly. It impairs your vision, your judgment, and your reflexes, making accidents much more likely to occur. These factors are even more applicable to someone operating a multi-ton commercial truck, tractor trailer, or 18 wheeler. Commercial trucking is already a dangerous profession due to the sheer weight and size of these vehicles, but when you add the influence of alcohol it can become downright deadly.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently declared Tennessee-licensed commercial trucker Eric Scott to be an “imminent hazard to public safety” after his recent alcohol-related incidents behind the wheel. Consequently, the FMCSA has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.

This order stems from two separate events involving Scott being under the influence of alcohol in his commercial truck. First, in December 2016, Vermont police found Scott asleep in the cab of his truck in the parking lot of a hotel. A breathalyzer test confirmed that Scott was under the influence of alcohol. Two days later, Scott was released from police custody. The following evening, Vermont police responded to a multi-vehicle crash on the interstate involving a tractor-trailer. Sure enough, the culprit was Scott, who was once again under the influence of alcohol. The accident occurred after Scott’s vehicle jackknifed off the road and into a sign, forcing three other vehicles off the road. At the time of this accident, Scott was on the job and headed to his final destination of Memphis, Tennessee.

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“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is a slogan we see and hear almost daily, whether it be a television commercial or on a billboard on the highway. Drunk driving is a serious epidemic that negatively affects the lives of thousands of Americans each year. In 2015, 10,265 people lost their lives as a result of alcohol related car crashes, which was a 3.2% increase from the prior year. Statistics also show that drunk driving increases dramatically over the holiday season.

Over 40% of all highway deaths occurring between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are related to alcohol. That number jumps up to 58% for the New Year’s holiday alone, compared to 29% for the rest of the year. Regardless of the numbers, “drunk driving accidents are 100% preventable,” says National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. It is precisely because of the preventable nature of drunk driving that members of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), along with organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), devote so much time and effort to technological projects like Last Call 360.

Last Call 360 is the newest addition to the NHTSA’s battle to end drunk driving. Through Last Call 360, the NHTSA created a virtual reality experience where users can simulate a night of drinking, including the potential consequences of drunk driving. The simulation begins in a bar, where users can chat with other bar patrons and order drinks. Throughout these interactions, users are presented with facts and data on alcohol and drunk driving. The website provides users with a “drink meter,” which measures sobriety based on the number of drinks consumed while at the bar. Users can order as many drinks as they like and are free to exit the bar at any time. However, if the user attempts to drive after drinking, they are subjected to a simulated police DUI stop.