Semi-trucks are one of the most intimidating vehicles on the road. They are large, they take up entire lanes, they can be difficult to maneuver around, and a truck accident can be deadly. There is, however, a possibility that’s infinitely more terrifying than the truck alone: a semi-truck whose driver is under the influence of alcohol.
Any driver under the influence is a danger on the road, but these dangers are even greater when the driver is behind the wheel of a commercial truck. Read on to learn more about the dangers of truck drivers and alcohol.
The Dangers of Commercial Truck Accidents
While commercial truck accidents may not be as common as passenger vehicle accidents, the consequences of commercial truck accidents can be extreme. In one recent year, 4,889 large vehicles were involved in fatal crashes, which was a 9 percent increase from the previous year; 116,000 of those large vehicle accidents resulted in injuries.
Most commonly, the fatalities and injuries in commercial truck deaths are to the occupants of smaller vehicles. Because trucks weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger cars, any vehicle that crosses paths with a truck is vulnerable.
Statistics on Alcohol Consumption and Truck Drivers
Alcohol consumption is involved in notably fewer truck accidents than passenger vehicle collisions. In documented accidents, only 3.6 percent of commercial truck drivers tested positive for a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.01 percent. The legal BAC limit in most states is .08 percent, and only 2.5 percent of documented commercial truck drivers tested above that level. This is compared to 29 percent of passenger vehicle drivers who were found to have a BAC above the legal limit at the time of a fatal collision.
One reason that truck drivers may be less likely to drive while intoxicated is because of the strict regulations around alcohol consumption and truck driving. Federal regulations prohibit any truck driver from consuming alcohol within four hours of going on duty or operating a commercial motor vehicle. The federal regulations also prohibit a driver from having any measurable blood alcohol concentration while on duty. Texas laws regarding CMV operation align with federal regulations.
If a truck driver violates the laws and regulations regarding alcohol consumption, they may lose their Commercial Driver’s License and their livelihood. It is no surprise that most drivers take these regulations seriously.
Complicating Factors in Truck Accidents
The low percentage of truck drivers with a measurable BAC at the time of an accident doesn’t tell the whole tale. The implications of a truck driver consuming any alcohol can be monumentally larger than when a passenger vehicle driver does so. Any amount of alcohol can have a detrimental effect on the skill and response time required to operate a semi-truck.
The following factors increase the risk of any truck accident, especially those involving alcohol:
- The size and weight of the commercial truck, with heavy trucks weighing over 80,000 pounds;
- The need for quick reaction time, coordination, and clear vision to operate such an unwieldy vehicle;
- Increased propensity to drive on rural and urban interstates across the country with which the driver is likely unfamiliar;
- Loaded trucks can take 20 to 40 percent farther to stop than cars, increasing the opportunity for additional collisions; and
- Truck drivers already have a propensity to experience fatigue given the long hours they are on the road, an issue which is only exacerbated by any alcohol consumption.
Consequences of Truck Accidents
The likelihood of death, serious injury, or major property damage increases when a commercial truck is involved in an accident. A truck’s weight and size make it a formidable opponent for any other vehicle that crosses its path. Likely outcomes include:
- Severely damaged or totaled passenger vehicles;
- Devastating injuries, such as neck and back injuries, broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, or death;
- Major medical expenses due to the more extreme injuries and the potential lifelong implications of the injuries; and
- Life-altering consequences, like the inability to work or engage in activities the injured individual previously enjoyed.
Given the huge implications of a large truck collision, truck drivers should avoid anything that may increase the chance of an accident, including alcohol consumption.
Recovering Damages After a Truck Accident
If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial truck and you believe alcohol may have played a role, you are entitled to compensation for your damages. Determining who is responsible for those damages can be complicated.
The parties you may need to look to for recovery include:
- The driver: If the truck driver was negligent, they are responsible for the consequences of their negligence. If you can show that the driver was under the influence of alcohol, proving negligence should be relatively straightforward. This means, however, that you need to ensure that the accident is thoroughly documented, including any evidence of alcohol consumption.
- The trucking company: If the trucking company acted negligently, they may also be responsible. For example, if the driver had a history of alcohol misuse but the company continued to put them behind the wheel, the trucking company also acted negligently. To seek recovery from the trucking company, you will need to show that the driver was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident.
- Insurance companies: As with any car accident, insurance companies are likely to be involved. Be wary of communicating directly with insurance companies. They do not have your best interest in mind and may try to avoid paying out your claims.
You may recover a wide variety of damages if you were in an accident, including:
- Medical expenses, including hospital bills, medication, and costs of long-term care;
- Loss of income, including work missed due to the injury and reduced future earning potential;
- Property damage, such as repair or replacement of your vehicle;
- Pain and suffering or emotional distress; and
- Compensation for your inability to participate in activities you previously enjoyed.
Seeking recovery after a truck accident, especially one involving alcohol, can be a stressful, time consuming, and complicated process. If you are unsure how to proceed, contact an experienced, licensed attorney for help.