Lawyers for Truck Accidents in MA & RI Involving the Use of Alcohol or Drugs

Getting drunk, using illegal drugs, or taking over-the-counter medications before getting behind the wheel is extremely dangerous. While one would think this could go without saying, clearly, the message hasn’t hit home for everyone. Every two hours, three people die in alcohol-related highway accidents in the United States. More still die in crashes caused by drivers under the influence of illegal and over-the-counter drugs.

As with other causes of accidents, driving under the influence is even more dangerous when it involves getting behind the wheel of a semi-truck, tractor trailer, or other large commercial vehicle. These trucks are harder to stop, harder to maneuver and cause more damage than other vehicles.

Knowing the risks, you would think that truck drivers and their employers would take a firm stance against driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, the statistics show that this isn’t the case.

The Prevalence of Alcohol and Drug-Related Truck Accidents

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), alcohol and drug use are responsible for 20 percent of all accidents involving large trucks. Think about that: One out of every five truck accidents could be avoided if truckers could simply stay away from consuming alcohol and drugs before and during their travels.

Sadly, entirely preventing alcohol and drug use isn’t on the table. Truck drivers make their own decisions, and these decisions often leave other motorists and their passengers helpless to avoid serious – and often fatal – collisions.

The Biggest Problem of All: Over-the-Counter Medications

While alcohol use is a leading cause of accidents among everyday drivers, the FMCSA reports that, for truck drivers, alcohol is to blame in just one percent of accidents. Illegal drug use is a relatively small piece of the puzzle as well – being responsible for just two percent of all collisions involving commercial trucks. However, this does not mean that these issues should be discounted. Together, they still led to roughly 4,000 fatal and injury-causing truck accidents over the FMCSA’s 33-month study period.

However, this number is just a fraction of the damage caused by the biggest culprit of truck accidents: over-the-counter drugs. The FMCSA reports that the biggest problem by far involves consumption of over-the-counter drugs, as truck drivers’ over-the-counter drug use led to approximately 25,000 injurious or fatal accidents during the FMCSA’s study period – and accounted for 17 percent of all collisions involving injuries or fatalities.

Why Are Over-the-Counter Medications Such a Major Problem Among Truck Drivers?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over-the-counter medications are the third most-commonly abused type of drug among people age 14 and older – following only alcohol and marijuana. While the FMCSA tests truck drivers for alcohol and illegal drugs, it does not test for over-the-counter medications. Truck drivers certainly know this, and many drivers take advantage of this loophole to use and abuse over-the-counter medications behind the wheel.

While over-the-counter medications are generally considered safe for consumption, that assumes that (i) they are taken as intended, and (ii) the individuals who consume them exercise caution regarding any known side effects. For example, NIDA reports that high doses of dextromethorphan – the active ingredient in many cold and cough medicines – can produce euphoric, dissociative, and even hallucinogenic effects similar to those experienced with PCP, ketamine, and other illegal drugs.

Which Over-the-Counter Medications are Most Dangerous for Truck Drivers?
When abused, taken improperly, or consumed prior to getting behind the wheel, many over-the-counter drugs can put truck drivers at significantly increased risk for causing serious accidents. Some of the most dangerous and most-commonly abused over-the-counter medications include:

  • Cough and Cold Medicines – As noted above, high doses of dextromethorphan can lead to effects similar to those produced by several illegal drugs. Many cough and cold medicines can also cause dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, nausea, and even numbness.
  • Sleeping Aids – Truckers who have trouble sleeping often turn to sleeping aids to help them get the rest they need. However, when truckers take over-the-counter sleeping aids before pulling over for the night, they can end up falling asleep behind the wheel.
  • Energy Supplements – Often suffering from a lack of sleep or feeling pressured to work long hours, truck drivers may use energy supplements to help them stay awake and alert on the road. Unfortunately, these supplements often have dangerous side effects and can lead to sudden energy crashes when their effects wear off.

How Do I Know if the Truck Driver Who Hit Me Was Driving Under the Influence?

Proving that a truck driver was intoxicated can be challenging. If the police responded to your accident, they may have conducted a field sobriety test, breath test, or other biological test to determine if the truck driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If so, we may be able to use this to help with your injury claim. Regardless, to ensure your best chance to win maximum compensation, it is critical that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

At Bottaro Law, we have decades of experience and have recovered millions of dollars for those injured in commercial truck accidents. To speak with an attorney about your case today, call (866) 631-4288 or contact us online now.