Drunk or otherwise intoxicated driving claims thousands of lives every year making it one of the biggest threats on the open road. If that person happens to be the driver of a big rig truck, the danger and recklessness involved in their decision is compounded exponentially. There are a number of deadly reasons why intoxicated truckers are potentially the most dangerous people on the road.
A DEADLY COMBINATION
There are a number of factors that contribute to making intoxicated truck drivers extremely dangerous:
Size of Vehicle – An 18-wheeler may weigh up to 80,000 pounds, the equivalent of 40 tons. By contrast, an average automobile weighs approximately 5,000 pounds. That makes 18 wheelers about 16 times heavier. The added mass and momentum radically increases the potential damage 18 wheelers can do if they slam into anything, especially a passenger vehicle a fraction of their size.
Challenge of the Vehicle – Even putting aside the dangers of intoxicated or sleepy driving, 18-wheelers are simply much more challenging to drive than a typical passenger vehicle. They have huge blind spots, require much more braking time, and cannot maneuver as easily as a passenger vehicle to take evasive action. This is a major reason why big rig truck drivers require a special driver’s license in order to safely operate their vehicles.
Long Hours – Commercial truck drivers routinely push the limit of their physical stamina and alertness. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes strict regulations on the amount of hours per day and per week a trucker can drive. Even with these limits in place some drivers push or outright exceed them, and the result is often sleepy truckers with dulled reflexes behind the wheel of massive, difficult-to-drive vehicles.
Unfamiliar Roads – A typical motorist on their daily commute is likely very familiar with the roadway. Driving familiar roads on a routine basis allows the driver to know where the turns, curves, exits, intersections, bridges, and other features of the roadway are located. By contrast, long-haul truckers drive across multiple states, sometimes traversing much of the country, with at best only a passing familiarity of a given roadway. This increases the danger associated with losing focus to look for turns and exits, speeding in unsafe areas, and not understanding the general terrain.
Intoxication – When intoxication is added to this already-deadly list it is easy to understand why truckers driving under the influence are the most deadly people on the road. Alcohol and drugs severely impair judgment and reaction times. A depressant such as alcohol may also make the tired trucker more likely to fall asleep at the wheel. Conversely, stimulants create their own dangerous cocktail of effects—making truckers much more likely to behave recklessly.
CONTRIBUTING FACTORS FOR USE OF DRUGS OR ALCOHOL
It is common knowledge that driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an extremely dangerous, illegal activity. You would think it would be obvious that professional truck drivers who make their living behind the wheel would know better than to engage in this activity—indeed there are many out there who exercise good judgment. Nevertheless, the following factors may contribute and lead truckers to throw caution to the wind and get behind the wheel while intoxicated:
Sleep Deprivation – Sleep deprivation may tempt some truckers into abusing amphetamines and other stimulants.
Lifestyle – The long shifts, long distances, and general irregularity that are a common aspect of many truckers’ schedules can also contribute to the problem in many cases. Some truckers may feel like unwinding with a few drinks on their breaks and off time than sleeping.
Pressure to Drive – Because the amount of money truck drivers make is directly proportional to how long they spend driving, many truckers feel a tremendous pressure to push themselves and keep driving no matter what, even if it means abusing illegal substances to accomplish it.
Personal Factors – Different personality traits, predispositions to addiction, life circumstances, and unique isolated events can all lead some truckers to make the wrong decision when it comes to driving their 18-wheelers while under the influence.
LEGAL RECOURSE FOR VICTIMS
Because of the nature of their occupations and the huge equipment they operate, truckers must be held to high standards of conduct while behind the wheel. Driving under the influence should be treated and prosecuted with zero tolerance.
Fortunately there is legal recourse for the victims of accidents involving intoxicated truckers. Personal injury, or in the most extreme cases, wrongful death suits, can be filed. The trucker is also not the only person who can be held accountable. Trucking companies are also responsible for the actions of their drivers when those drivers were operating within the scope of their employment. This is particularly true if the company exercised negligent hiring practices in hiring or retaining a trucker with a known history of using drugs or alcohol while driving. The trucking company is also required to perform federally mandated drug and alcohol tests and other eligibility screening throughout the driver’s employment.
Suffering in an accident involving an intoxicated trucker is a devastating event. Such an accident can easily result in very high medical bills, total damage to the vehicle, and significant pain and suffering. It is crucial that victims protect their legal rights and hold the guilty parties accountable. Dugas Law Firm is highly experienced in the intricacies of trucking litigation and can help victims receive the compensation they deserve for their loss.