Truckers & Drug Impairment: A Massive Problem

Truckers haul for long hours, often with very little human interaction. They can be away from home for weeks as they travel some of the most isolated roads in the country. Unsurprisingly, many turn to drugs or alcohol to pass the time.

Hauling while high or intoxicated is illegal. It also is a form of negligence. Impaired truckers cannot operate their rigs safely, and they make errors which have dramatic consequences for other people on the road. Please call Correll Law Firm following an accident with a large truck, like a semi or big rig. Our Winchester truck accident lawyer can discuss whether to seek compensation from the trucker or his employer.

How Common is Drug Use?

Trucking companies are required to perform drug tests on their employees before hiring them. They also must perform tests periodically, as well as whenever they suspect a trucker is impaired. Furthermore, testing is required by the federal government after certain accidents.

We have seen an uptick in the number of positive tests. In 2021, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a 101% increase in the number of drug testing violations. Essentially, they doubled in only one year. The numbers have remained troublingly high in more recent years.

Any trucker who fails a test—or who refuses to take one—should be suspended. There is a process for getting the trucker back on the road, and a trucker can’t be returned to work until they complete this process.

Virginia prosecutes truckers for drunk driving, and any trucker could face criminal sanctions if convicted. The federal government also regulates the trucking industry. Any trucker who receives a drunk driving charge could end up prohibited from hauling across state lines.

Most Popular Drugs

In 2021, truckers received a positive test for the following drugs:

  • Marijuana metabolite (60,596)
  • Cocaine metabolite (16,705)
  • Methamphetamine (10,269)
  • Amphetamine (9,857)
  • Oxymorphone (2,648)

Furthermore, there were 1,422 violations for alcohol use in 2021.

Some experts think these numbers are undercounting some drugs. For example, the presence of cocaine is best found by a hair test, but the government doesn’t accept this as a valid testing method. In any event, there are thousands of violations each year for these common controlled substances.

How Drugs & Alcohol Impair Performance

Hauling is hard work. Truckers must make split-second decisions all the time and remain focused on the job so they reach their destination safely. Drugs and alcohol have well known side effects which increase the odds of a crash:

  • Alcohol: Increased fatigue, loss of coordination, and delayed reflexes.
  • Marijuana: Mood changes, memory impairment, and reduced ability to solve problems.
  • Methamphetamine: Insomnia, mood disturbances, paranoia, and reduction in motor speed.
  • Cocaine: Risky behavior and increased blood pressure.

When high or drunk, truckers can fail to properly execute a lane change or even back up the rig properly. Others will speed, fail to yield, or run a red light. Innocent people on the road have no idea what happened when these large trucks slam into them—and send them to the hospital.

Signs a Trucker is Intoxicated or High

Accidents are often a blur, and many truck accident victims are in extreme pain after a big rig rides up onto their vehicle or causes a crash. If possible, you should always check whether a trucker appears impaired. What signs should you look for?

  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty walking or standing upright
  • Erratic behavior
  • Physical aggression
  • Bloody noses
  • Marijuana smell

You might see the trucker holding a beer bottle or have drugs falling out of his pockets. You should note anything that seems to indicate drug use. You can then tell the officer who arrives at the scene about your suspicions.

Evidence of Intoxication: How We Build a Case

At Correll Law Firm, our goal is to seek compensation from the person responsible for your accident. We need to show the defendant was negligent—meaning, they did not act carefully even though it was foreseeable someone would get hurt.Getting behind the wheel of a truck after drinking alcohol or doing drugs is a type of negligence. Smoking a joint or doing a line of cocaine while hauling are also dangerous behaviors. If we can show a trucker was impaired, we can seek compensation.

We rely on the following evidence for most cases:

  • Your impressions of the trucker after the crash
  • Other witness statements
  • Any drug test or breathalyzer results
  • Trucking company records
  • Admissions made by the trucker

Typically, we can sue the trucker and their employer. Some trucking companies do not follow government regulations regarding testing. They might hide positive drug tests or return a trucker to duty too soon. Under Virginia law, employers are also liable whenever an employee hurts someone while working.

You Deserve Compensation for an Impaired Driving Accident

Truck accidents leave many people with high medical bills and intense pain. Our clients have suffered fractures, chest injuries, paralysis, concussions, and other serious injuries in a collision with a larger commercial vehicle. At Correll Law Firm, we can seek compensation for your:

  • Medical bills, including rehabilitation
  • Pain and suffering, including depression or anxiety
  • Loss of income
  • Property damage (car damage)
  • Reasonably certain future losses, such as additional medical care and diminished earning capacity

We might also seek punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish the defendant for exceedingly bad conduct. Virginia provides a right to seek punitive damages when a defendant acts with malice, or if their conduct exhibited conscious disregard for the safety of other people. Often, a drunk driving case will satisfy this standard.

Under Va. Code § 8.01-38.1, punitive damages are capped at $350,000, but there is no cap for your compensatory damages listed above.

Call Our Winchester Truck Accident Attorney Today

Correll Law Firm stands ready to help anyone hurt in a truck accident. Our personal injury lawyer has the tools you need to negotiate a settlement with a trucking company and can present your side of the story with persuasive evidence. To learn more, please call our office, 540-535-2005 or contact us online.