Truck Driver Substance Abuse

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Trucking Accidents and Drug Use

The adverse effects of drugs and alcohol on a motorist lead to injury and death every day in this country. Driving under the influence becomes an even greater risk when the vehicle is an 80,000-pound truck that can cause mass destruction. As drug and alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents have increased in frequency, drug and alcohol testing for truck drivers has become mandatory. However, a severe truck accident may occur when these precautions fail to prevent a driver from exercising good judgment. This article will explore the relationship between substance abuse and trucking accidents.

Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured in a truck accident due to drug and alcohol abuse, contact a Washington, DC, truck accident lawyer with Chaikin, Sherman, Camaratta, & Siegel P.C. immediately to start an investigation. We will analyze the evidence, review any trucking logs and records, and ensure those responsible for your accident are held accountable.

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as “the misuse of drugs or alcohol for non-medical reasons.” The term can refer to both illegal drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, as well as legal substances, such as alcohol. Substance abuse is a serious problem that affects all segments of society.

Truck Driver Regulations & Substance Abuse

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented regulations for truck drivers in an effort to reduce the number of truck accidents due to drug and alcohol abuse. The FMCSA requires drivers to have a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). It also requires truck drivers to take and pass a physical exam every two years, which includes drug and alcohol testing. Moreover, the FMCSA prohibits using or possessing any controlled substances while on duty, including medical marijuana or any alcohol with a blood alcohol level over .04.

How Does Substance Abuse Lead to Trucking Accidents?

Substance abuse impairs the ability of truck drivers to respond quickly and appropriately to unexpected situations. The effects of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and opioids, can lead to slowed reaction times.

The Impact Drug Use Has on Truck Accidents

Substance abuse can have a devastating impact on trucking safety, leading to severe and potentially fatal accidents. Alcohol and drug abuse impairs the ability of truck drivers to respond quickly and appropriately to unexpected situations, resulting in dangerous driving conditions. In this section, we will explore drug use’s impact on truck accidents in more detail.

Slowed Reaction Times

Drug and alcohol use can significantly impact a driver’s reaction time, leading to dangerous driving conditions. For example, drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and opioids can slow a driver’s response time by up to 50%, resulting in delayed braking, turn signals, and even failing to recognize traffic signs or hazards.

Poor Decision-Making Skills

Drug and alcohol use can also lead to poor decision-making skills and aggressive driving behavior. Drug use impairs judgment and attention, making it difficult for drivers to focus on driving safely. Additionally, drugs may cause a driver to act out in anger or frustration, resulting in reckless driving or tailgating other vehicles.

Impaired Judgment & Vision

Drugs and alcohol can also cause truck drivers to lose their judgment and vision, resulting in reckless behaviors. When combined with a large truck capable of causing mass destruction, these impairments can lead to severe accidents. Impaired judgment can also lead truck drivers to make poor decisions, such as speeding and changing lanes without looking.

Decreased Focus & Awareness

Finally, drugs can cause a driver to become distracted, reducing their focus and awareness on the road. This can be particularly dangerous for truck drivers who must stay focused to drive safely. Decreased focus and awareness can lead to motorists missing potential hazards and warning signs, increasing the chance of an accident.

Overall, drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem that can have a devastating impact on trucking safety. Truck drivers need to understand the risks associated with drug use and ensure they are following all regulations to prevent potentially deadly accidents.

Consequences Commercial Truck Drivers Face for Substance Abuse

The FMCSA has strict regulations when it comes to substance abuse and driving. Suppose a driver has any amount of illegal drugs in their system or a blood alcohol level over .04. In that case, they may be subject to fines, penalties, and other consequences.

Depending on the severity of the offense, drivers can face a range of punishments, including license revocation, steep fines, and even jail time. Additionally, employers may take disciplinary action against drivers for substance abuse violations, such as suspension without pay or termination from the company.

How an Attorney Can Help if an Unsafe Truck Driver Has Injured You

​Contact a personal injury attorney immediately if you or someone you know has been injured in a trucking accident. A qualified lawyer can help you analyze the evidence and build a powerful case to protect your rights. Your attorney can review your case, analyze the evidence, review any trucking logs, and determine the following steps to take to protect your rights. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages related to the accident. A qualified personal injury attorney can help you get the justice you deserve.

Substance Use & Trucking Facts

The Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety found that truck drivers had the following substances in their system while driving:

  • Marijuana – 15%
  • Non-prescription stimulants – 12%
  • Prescription stimulants – 5%
  • Cocaine – 2%
  • Alcohol – 1%

Marijuana and amphetamines are the two most commonly abused substances by truckers, according to the statistics.


Many drivers mistakenly believe that marijuana has less effect on their driving ability than alcohol does. In reality, marijuana can affect reaction time and concentration for up to 24 hours after it is smoked.

The National Transportation Safety Board found in a 1990 study that 12.5 percent of fatal truck accidents involved marijuana. It is also common for marijuana and alcohol to be combined, which magnifies the risk of a severe accident. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that, among all the drivers stopped by police, 45% had marijuana in their systems.


The use of stimulants by truck drivers is common when they seek ways to stay mentally alert. Federal regulations limit the hours a truck driver can be on the road daily. However, many drivers seek ways to stay awake longer to drive further and make more money.

Of the drivers interviewed by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), 85 percent revealed that it is easy to obtain methamphetamines at truck stops. The driver may feel more awake, but methamphetamines do not eliminate the dangers caused by sleep deprivation.

Drugged Drivers & the National Transportation Safety Board

According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, drug use is connected to a startling number of truck-related traffic accidents, injuries, and deaths. In a one-year study, the board found that 31% of truck accidents were allegedly caused by fatigue. Nearly half of the drivers involved in these accidents also tested positive for a controlled substance, such as illegal drugs.

According to the study, repeated drug use is common among truck drivers. It said:

“There is a significant relationship between a driver’s prior alcohol and/or other drug offenses and a positive test for drugs of abuse in these accidents. This indicates the need for thorough background checks and pre-employment drug tests….”

Additionally, the study indicated a strong relationship between shipment deadlines and drug use. In other words, drivers are more likely to use artificial stimulants if they have an approaching shipment deadline. While drivers may not use drugs recreationally, their actions put innocent motorists’ lives at risk. Truck drivers are expected to always operate their vehicles safely on our roadways. However, poor judgment can often lead to substance abuse, making them dangerous to themselves and other drivers.

Looking for a Washington, DC, Truck Accident Lawyer?

If you or someone you love has been harmed in a trucking accident that involved drugs or alcohol, consult an experienced truck accident attorney – you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., we believe every case requires the highest level of personal attention to ensure the best possible results.

If you have been involved in an accident caused by a truck driver, don’t hesitate to contact our Washington, DC, personal injury attorneys or call us for a free and confidential consultation.

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