Drunk or Impaired Truck Drivers

Truck drivers have an enormous responsibility in operating rigs that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds or more. Those who choose to do so while under the influence of drugs or alcohol jeopardize not just their cargo, but their own lives and the lives of those with whom they share the road.

Of course, no one should get behind the wheel when they aren’t sober. But those who do so while driving a large truck have taken a gamble for which innocent people may pay a huge price.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyers look to hold accountable drunk or impaired truck drivers – and the carriers that employ them – for the damage they cause.

If you are injured in a truck accident in Florida, there is a possibility the truck driver was drunk or under the influence of drugs. It’s a possibility that should be explored, and may lead to an award of punitive damages on top of what you would have received otherwise.

What Is Impaired Truck Driving?

Although all drivers in Florida are forbidden from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the per se limit is lower for those operating commercial vehicles.

F.S. 316.193 holds drivers accountable for drunk driving if they have a breath-alcohol limit that meets or exceeds 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. However, if you are a commercial truck driver, you are considered under the influence if you have an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater, per 49 CFR Part 382.201. This law also prohibits employers who have knowledge that a driver has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or higher from allowing the driver to perform or continue to perform safety-sensitive functions (like driving).

On duty use of alcohol is prohibited, as is pre-duty use of alcohol within a four-hour window.

It’s considered a major violation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), as is refusal to take an alcohol test as required by state implied consent laws (F.S. 316.1932 in Florida) and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

To be “under the influence” according to Florida statute means that while in actual physical control of the vehicle, one ingested alcohol or any chemical substance that has affected his or her normal faculties. By this definition, it isn’t necessary to prove the per se limits of alcohol.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports two percent of large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015 had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. This was lower than drivers of other vehicle types (21 percent for passenger car drivers and 27 percent for motorcyclists). However, the agency did not provide information on how many drivers had a BAC of 0.04 or more.

FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations

FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations are outlined in 49 CFR Part 382. All intrastate and foreign commerce drivers of commercial motor vehicles must be drug- and alcohol- tested by their employers. For purposes of the statute, “employer” means any person (including a government agency) who owns or leases a commercial motor vehicle or assigns persons to operate such a vehicle. It can also include the employer’s agents, officer or representatives.

If a drunk or impaired truck driver causes an accident, their employer may be held accountable with the assistance of our Fort Lauderdale lawyers for failing to test their commercial drivers for drugs and alcohol according to federal regulations.

Employers are required to:

  • Impose pre-employment drug and alcohol testing, prior to the first time the driver performs safety-sensitive functions;
  • Impose post-accident testing, “as soon as practicable” following an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle operating on a public road in commerce;
  • Impose random testing on 10 percent of its average number of drivers.

Testing may also be initiated if the carrier has a reasonable suspicion of a violation of alcohol or drug use prohibitions.

Carriers that fail to follow these standards and whose drivers are subsequently involved in a DUI trucking accident may be held directly liable by a victim and their injury attorney for resulting injuries under the legal theories of negligent hiring, negligent retention or negligent supervision.

Motor carriers must retain records of driver alcohol tests with results indicating alcohol concentration of 0.02 or greater for five years. They must also keep for that time verified records of positive controlled substances test results and documentation of refusals to submit to alcohol testing.

Why Drunk or Impaired Truck Drivers Are So Dangerous?

Alcohol is known to impair a driver’s responses by dulling reflexes, diminishing effective depth perception and slowing reaction times. What that means for a trucker is a significantly reduced ability to respond safely or effectively in the use of emergency maneuvers to avoid a truck accident.

Prescription medications too can be extremely dangerous for many of the same reasons. Some truckers use prescription drugs just to help them stay awake for long stretches. However, when those effects wear off, the driver could suddenly become extremely fatigued and become at risk for falling asleep behind the wheel.

Based in the Fort Lauderdale area, our truck accident attorneys are committed to helping victims of impaired truckers obtain their rightful compensation.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Fort Lauderdale trucking accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or (954) 761-3641.

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