Impaired Driving. I’ve discussed the danger of impaired driving many times on this blog. Years ago, impaired driving meant drunk driving. Alcohol was the primary problem. With years of hard work by law enforcement and advocacy groups, we saw significant decreases in dangerous drunk driving.
However, in the last couple decades, drugged driving has eclipsed drunk driving. Now, we face a huge safety issue due to drivers impaired by drugs. Often, the drugs are prescription medications. We all know the huge problem created by narcotic pain medications. Too many drivers are also impaired by illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines.
When I write a blog about truck driving safety, I often receive some backlash from upset truckers. Any critique of trucking is viewed as an attack on all drivers. That’s certainly not my intention. Truck driving is a difficult and solitary job. We have many safe, professional and dedicated drivers who work to deliver the products and services we all need. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of representing countless truck drivers hurt in a work-related accident. Like every profession, a few bad apples cause all the problems. We have too many needless injuries and deaths in this country from those few bad apples.
Impaired Truckers Put Everyone At Risk
A couple years ago, I wrote about a Reuters article discussing drug use among truck drivers. The article’s title says it all: Drug Use High Among Commercial Truck Drivers. The article begins by noting the challenge of many truck driving jobs and how many truckers put their own health and safety at risk to get through a shift.
The Reuters article then discusses the most common drugs used / abused by truck drivers. These include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines. As I mentioned previously, I would add narcotic pain pills.
I’ve written previously about the fraudulent medical certifiers who protect unsafe drivers. I’ve also written about the carriers who ignore bad actions to keep drivers on the road. The few impaired drivers put all of us at a huge risk! These few bad drivers are usually helped by a few bad medical certifiers and a few bad carriers who put profits before people. Again, it’s the few bad apples who create all the problems.
The Number Of Impaired Truck Drivers Is Increasing
Are our roads getting safer? During the pandemic, we saw an increased number of drunk drivers locally. I’m talking about normal, not professional, drivers. During the height of the pandemic, I wrote about the increased number of drunk driving arrests in communities across northern Alabama.
What about professional truck drivers? Do we see changes in impaired driving among truckers as well?
According to recent data, the number of positive truck driver drug tests increased significantly in 2021 compared to 2020. A recent article highlights that positive driver drug tests show a 13% increase from last year. That’s significant!
Yes, some data suggests impaired driving increased among all drivers. That is, the rate also increased among non-truckers. Any increase is serious. But, the problem is especially dangerous among truckers. When compared to normal drivers, truckers already operate with greater levels of fatigue and higher rates of ill health. This increases the risk of serious personal injury caused by impairment. When compared to normal drivers, truckers already operate vehicles that are much heavier, more difficult to maneuver and take longer to stop. This increases the risk of serious personal injury caused by impairment.
We should take steps to promote the health and safety of our truck drivers. I’ve advocated for changes to the medical certification process and other programs. Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) took steps to remove drivers with drug and alcohol problems from our roadways.
A New Safety Rule Seeks To Reduce The Number Of Impaired Truckers
You can read more about the new rule HERE. The new rule will become effective in November 2021. Currently, the FMSCA keeps a clearinghouse with information on truckers who test positive for drugs or alcohol. The problem is that the individual states who issue CDLs (Commercial Drivers Licenses) may not receive important drug or alcohol information. According to an October 6 FMSCA announcement:
Currently, most state driver licensing agencies do not receive drug and alcohol program violation information about commercial driver license or commercial learner permit holders licensed in their state.
Therefore, these SDLAs [state licensing agencies] are unaware when a commercial motor vehicle operator is subject to the driving prohibition, and the CMV [truck driver] operator continues to hold a valid CDL or CLP, despite the driving prohibition.
So, dangerous truckers have been allowed to continue driving (and to continue putting all of us at risk). The new rule seeks to correct this problem. It “closes the knowledge gap” by giving state licensing agencies the ability to learn whether commercial drivers licensed in that state are subject to driving prohibitions by the clearinghouse. The rule then reinforces prior requirements that state licensing agencies must not issue or renew a commercial drivers license (CDL) when a driver has tested positive for drugs or alcohol. In addition to not issuing or renewing a CDL, the rule also requires state agencies to initiate a process to remove CDLs within 60 days of receiving notification from FMSCA that a driver tested positive or refused a test.
Like so many other issues, the failure to communicate between different government agencies puts us all at risk. Hopefully, the new rule will help states remove dangerous truckers from our highways.
From its office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm helps people across Alabama who have suffered a serious personal injury. Many of our cases involve serious car crashes and commercial truck crashes on our roads and highways. If you have questions about a personal injury issue, let us know. Our consultations are always free and confidential. We want you to have the answers you need.