Driving While Impaired: What Good does it Really Do?

Use of alcohol and drugs by truck drivers, as reported by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), is the second most common cause of accidents involving big rigs (also called 18-wheelers, semi-trailers or trailer-trucks). Due to the enormous size of these vehicles, an impaired driver behind the wheel completes the threat of possible accident that may easily result to severe injuries or death (impaired-driving may be due to alcohol intoxication or due to the effect of illegal drugs (narcotics) or legal drugs (over-the-counter and prescription medicine).

Operating Class 8 trucks, which include big rigs and other commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR) above 33000 lb., requires that the driver has a commercial driver’s license, possesses the necessary skills in the safe operation of a truck, is not feeling fatigued or sleepy, and is not impaired or intoxicated.

To ensure that the last requirement is met, the government has set 0.04% as the legal blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers of 18-wheeler trucks. A driving under the influence (DUI) charge and heavy punishments await those who will be caught with this BAC limit while driving. While those caught with 0.02% BAC level may not be charged with a DUI offense, they, nonetheless, can be issued a 24-hour driving suspension. These limits, by the way, are only for drivers who will be discovered to have said BAC levels while operating a truck; those who are off-duty, but registers a 0.08% BAC may still incur a DUI charge.

Despite the BAC limits and the anti-drunk driving laws, data shows that prior to crashes, many drivers were, indeed, intoxicated or alcohol-impaired. This is because many drivers consume a bottle or two during stopovers, while sharing stories with other truck drivers; some also choose to bring along extra bottles which will keep them company during the long, tiring and lonely long drives between counties.

In its website, the law firm Williams Kherkher says, “Driving while under the influence of any intoxicant is a reckless and hazardous act that could endanger everyone on or near the road.”

For drivers of big rigs, staying sober while on duty is a legal responsibility. It has been explained, time and again, that alcohol impairment can lessen one’s ability to safely operate a vehicle, much more a big rig. The risk of injury and death, especially to drivers and passengers of smaller vehicles, is the reason why drunk-driving has been made illegal. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 5,000 small vehicle occupants die every year in accidents where trucks are involved; number of deaths among truck drivers, on the other hand, number to about 700.

Victims of truck accidents will definitely need strong legal representation from a seasoned personal injury lawyer for a higher chance of claiming the compensation they will need for their medical treatment and other losses. This is because proving liability, specifically proving that the truck driver is the one at fault in the accident, may not be a simple task. Due to this, a civil lawsuit, even with evidence showing the truck driver’s liability, may still turn out to be a very challenging task.