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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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so-tired-1440121Federal agencies and regulatory groups are always looking at ways to reduce car and truck accidents and prevent people from being hurt in them. Each year, millions get injured in car and truck accidents throughout Tennessee and across the country. Nearly all of these are caused by some form of negligence, whether it is looking down at a phone instead of focusing on the road, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or failing to properly maintain the car.

A common theme in car accident prevention is that many wrecks can be prevented by the drivers themselves. One particular way is by reducing drowsy driving. Drowsy drivers are those who are sleepy, tired, or fatigued, which leads to slower reaction times and lapses in judgment. Each year, drowsy driving contributes to as many as one million car accidents and 8,000 accident-related deaths.

Researchers have been studying drowsy driving for years. One study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found a direct link between lack of sleep and inattentiveness on the road. For example, drivers who had slept less than four hours in the previous 24 hours were 11.5 times more likely to get into an accident than drivers who had slept move than seven hours in the same timeframe. Alarmingly, the study found that sleeping only 4-5 hours can produce the same effects as a blood alcohol content (BAC) level that is equal to or slightly above the legal limit for alcohol. A separate study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that one in three drivers admitted to driving while drowsy.

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road-to-1408091Operating large freight trucks, such as 18-wheelers, is no small task. The sheer size and weight of these vehicles make them extremely difficult to handle and navigate. The length of the cargo trailer makes it extremely difficult for the driver to see cars behind the vehicle, and side view mirrors can only help so much. All of these obstacles do not even account for poor weather. While it may be difficult for a truck driver to see under normal conditions, periods of fog or heavy rain make it nearly impossible unless the driver exhibits proper caution behind the wheel.

Recently, a fatal four car pileup involving a freight truck was attributed to low visibility and fog. Authorities reported that the trucker was attempting to pass another vehicle and collided head on with a pickup truck traveling in the other lane. Per the investigation, fog was so dense that there was basically no visibility. A passenger in the pickup truck was killed upon impact.

Visibility is a major component of trucking and safe driving in general. Even if a commercial truck or tractor-trailer is operated by a licensed, well-rested, experienced truck driver, fog and other low visibility environments can create dangerous conditions. Accidents like the one mentioned above are common and equally as dangerous as instances of vehicles colliding with trucks. Drivers unable to see large trucks could fall victim to override accidents in which their car gets completely run over by the 18-wheeler.

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seatbelt-1314338It is common knowledge that seat belts help save lives. Recently released data shows that in 2014, seat belts reduced fatalities for front seat passengers by 50% and saved nearly 13,000 lives. If the idea of self-preservation isn’t enough to get you to buckle up, there’s the fact that driving without a seat belt can result in a ticket or fine from police. Researchers and lawmakers alike recognize the benefits of wearing a seat belt. Why, then, are seat belts not always required on school buses? This exact question is being asked by Tennessee legislators eager to see Tennessee law require all school buses to be equipped with seat belts.

Currently, very few states – including California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas – require school buses to provide seat belts. This is despite overwhelming and convincing support from organizations like the National Safety Council and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many of those who do not think buses need seat belts argue that school buses are already one of the safest forms of transportation, and adding seat belts would create an unnecessary cost. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that the average cost of equipping a large school bus with seat belts could cost in excess of $10,000 per bus.

Despite the additional cost, the NHTSA maintains that the addition of seat belts could make buses even safer, and the potential of saving the lives of children would more than outweigh the extra cost. Certain lawmakers in Tennessee share that sentiment. Representatives from East Tennessee are actively pushing legislation that would make Tennessee the newest state to require seat belts on school buses.

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A cup of coffee in the morning helps many Americans fight off fatigue after a restless night. But if you’re one of the nearly 18 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, it will take more than some caffeine to remedy your ailment.

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that affects an individual’s breathing during sleep. The disorder causes people to stop breathing for extended periods of time and results in the sufferer awakening throughout the night to catch their breath. Needless to say, those suffering from sleep apnea fail to reap the benefits of a full night’s rest and are often severely fatigued throughout the next day.

Sleep apnea is a serious health problem that can be deadly if left untreated. Not only is it dangerous to the individual, but also to the general public. For example, a 2016 New Jersey train crash, which injured over 100 people, was caused by a train operator who likely suffered from sleep apnea, according to reports. Further, the crash was attributed to the operator’s fatigue brought on by chronic sleep apnea. This tragic event took place just three years after another sleep apnea related train crash occurred in New York.

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At least four people were killed when a train crashed into a charter bus in Biloxi, Mississippi on March 7, 2017. Three of the victims died at the accident scene while a fourth passed away while receiving treatment at the hospital. In addition, at least 35 passengers on the bus were either taken by ambulance or airlifted to local hospitals to be treated for various injuries, and many of the victims remain in critical condition. Per one report, every passenger on the bus sustained at least some type of injury.

The bus was a charter bus carrying around 50 people from Austin, Texas to casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi. Most of the passengers on board were senior citizens. The accident occurred around 2:15 p.m. when the bus was either stopped or stuck on train tracks and got hit by a CSX Transportation freight train. The impact between the two vehicles was so severe that the train pushed the bus approximately 300 feet before coming to a stop. Per one witness, the bus had been stopped on the train tracks for several minutes before it was hit. When they saw the train approaching, passengers tried to get off the bus, recognizing the bus was not going to move and the train was not going to be able to stop in time. Some of the injured passengers had to be cut out of the bus in order to be rescued.

Biloxi police and paramedics immediately responded to the scene to investigate and assist the injured bus passengers. Police Chief John Miller described the aftermath as “terrible” and “chaotic.” Witnesses also described the accident in detail. One witness heard the train honk its horn at the bus to move out of the way before the crash. The witness then saw bodies flying all over the bus once it was hit.

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truck-accident-1450067In the United States, truck drivers are required to maintain a logbook tracking their hours while on the road. These logbooks are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In these logbooks, drivers are required to catalog their hours on and off the road. The purpose is to ensure that truck drivers are getting enough rest and are not driving for extended periods of time, which may result in drowsy driving. However, many drivers falsify logbook entries, either at the request of a trucking company or for their own personal gain. This leads to fatigued drivers operating heavy machinery at high speeds. Bottom line: logbook falsifications can have deadly results.

A typical commercial trucking logbook has space to document off duty, sleep, driving, and on duty hours. These lines correspond with a 24 hour schedule. A completed logbook would ideally show a driver’s schedule, from the minute they pick up their cargo to their time off duty. Ideally, all hours in a day would be accounted for. These entries are signed by each driver, and drivers are trusted with filling these out truthfully. Not surprisingly then, falsifying a log is not looked upon highly by judges and juries when the truck driver’s negligence caused a serious car accident.

Any driver that fails to complete the record of duties performed or makes false reports on a log can be subject to prosecution. Despite this punishment, many drivers continue to falsify logbook entries. Often, drivers claim that they were “forced” by their trucking company to falsify entries. Trucking companies may put unattainable deadlines on deliveries, and as a result, many drivers feel that they must falsify information or risk being fired. This excuse does not always hold up well, and drivers can still be found liable for false entries, regardless of circumstantial pressure.

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A Mississippi trucking company has been ordered to pay $15 million in damages to a survivor of a devastating multi-car pileup that occurred nearly two years ago. Megan Richards, a nursing student at Georgia Southern University, was one of only two survivors of a trucking accident on Interstate 16 in Georgia that claimed the lives of five other women, also nursing students. Richards and the others were traveling to a hospital in Savannah for their last day of clinical rotations at the time of the accident.

According to reports, Richards and the others were stopped behind an unrelated wreck on Interstate 16 when a tractor trailer driven by John Wayne Johnson smashed into their vehicles. The crash totaled the vehicles in which the nursing students were traveling, killing five of the women on impact. Richards and another woman were the only survivors of the truck accident and were immediately transferred to a nearby hospital. Despite escaping alive, Richards suffered a traumatic brain injury.

At the time of the accident, John Wayne Johnson of Shreveport, Louisiana was employed by Total Transportation, a trucking company located in Richland, Mississippi. Prior to working for Total Transportation, Johnson had driven trucks commercially for another company but was fired for falling asleep at the wheel. Discovery revealed that Total Transportation was aware of this blemish on Johnson’s record but hired him anyway. Although Johnson pled guilty to five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide, he maintained that he was wide awake at the time of the crash.

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Long haul commercial truck driving can be one of the deadliest professions in America. Over 250,000 accidents each year are attributed to commercial trucking, with roughly 5,000 of those accidents resulting in fatalities. One of the biggest contributing factors to the deadly nature of commercial trucking is the poor health of truck drivers.

Commercial trucking is a demanding profession, requiring countless hours on the road. It is not uncommon for truck drivers to haul loads over multiple state lines on a single crossing, often going hours without sleep or proper nutrition. Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and back pain are all common ailments in truck drivers and have also been linked to poor driving performance. Further, high blood pressure and fatigue, two top indicators of poor health in truckers, can be attributed to poor diet and lack of sleep. Factors such as stress, heavy lifting, long hours, and lack of exercise are all characteristics of commercial trucking and contribute greatly to poor health conditions.

To offset the effects of sleeplessness, many truck drivers turn to stimulants like amphetamines. Amphetamines can be used to stave off fatigue, allowing some truck drivers to drive longer without rest. Along with producing dangerous driving conditions in general, these drugs can also contribute to major health risks such as vertigo and hallucinations. Stimulants also change the driver’s perceptions and ability to react to emergency driving situations, including inclement weather. It should thus come as no surprise that over 35% of truck drivers who die in an accident test positive for an illegal drug.