The Deadly Role of Drug Abuse in the Commercial Trucking Industry

Every year, intoxicated driving plays a tragic role in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries in the state of Utah alone.  But while the destructive effects of drunk driving are common knowledge, fewer people are aware of an equally disturbing trend in the commercial trucking industry: the widespread abuse of narcotics and prescription pills by fatigued drivers trying to stay awake on long-haul journeys.  If you or one of your loved ones was injured in a crash or collision caused by a tired truck driver, drug abuse may have played a part in causing or contributing to the accident.  If so, Salt Lake City truck accident lawyer Darwin Overson may be able to help you get compensated.  Truckers should be held accountable when they gamble with other motorists’ lives by abusing drugs before or during a trip.

Over-the-Counter, Prescription Drug Abuse Among Top 10 Factors in Truck Accidents

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies automotive accidents in the United States.  According to an NHTSA report on the causation of fatal and injury crashes involving 141,000 large trucks, alcohol use was a factor in an estimated 1% of truck accidents analyzed, affecting about 1,000 trucks.  By comparison, use of illegal drugs like amphetamines and cocaine was a factor in 2% (3,000 trucks affected), while abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs was a factor in 17%, with 25,000 trucks affected.

As the data shows, drug use is substantially more prevalent than alcohol use as a crash factor, even before factoring in any illegal narcotics.  Indeed, the majority of cases involve legal drugs, which for more than a decade have caused more annual deaths than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined.  However, illegal drugs are still prevalent among long-haul truck drivers, as a study published in Public Health Reports reveals.  All 48 truckers who were interviewed by the researchers revealed prior drug use from the period during July through September of 2004.  Nearly 50% reported injection drug use, while nearly 90% reporting using illicit drugs.

According to the study, “Some participants in the study reported that the drugs of preference for truck drivers were methamphetamine and cocaine.  The harsh working conditions were said to promote the use of drugs that allow truck drivers to remain awake and focused for long periods of time…  [S]timulants such as methamphetamine and crack cocaine were used by drivers while driving.”

Legal drug use remains, however, the more widespread problem.  OTC and prescription drug use both ranked in the NHTSA report’s top 10 large truck accident factors.  The report ranked OTC drug use as the number eight factor in commercial truck crashes, while prescription drug use ranked third.

Was a Family Member Hit by an Intoxicated Truck Driver? Call Our Salt Lake City Injury Lawyers for Legal Help

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Unfortunately, the problem is on the rise.  Last year, the NHTSA issued a press release warning that, while intoxicated driving was in decline, drugged driving was actually becoming more common among all motorists.

According to the press release, “Nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety.”  As the press release also noted, “The number of weekend nighttime drivers with evidence of drugs in their system climbed from 16.3% in 2007 to 20% in 2014.  The number of drivers with marijuana in their system grew by nearly 50%.”

Various OTC and prescription drugs are abused in the trucking industry.  Some common examples include ephedrine (a stimulant used to treat low blood pressure), dextromethorphan (Robitussin cough syrup), and caffeine pills.  When taken in excessive doses or mixed with other medications, these and other drugs can produce severe symptoms that interfere with the ability to drive safely.  Ephedrine, for example, can cause dizziness, tremors, and anxiety.

Even greater danger lies in the fatigue resulting from drug-induced sleeplessness, which can cause drivers to make cloudy, illogical, forgetful decisions, or even to fall asleep behind the wheel after succumbing to prolonged sleep deprivation.  While there are federal shift limits for truck drivers, these “Hours of Service” regulations are, to quote the NHTSA, “highly controversial and widely violated.”

If one of your family members was hit by an intoxicated truck driver on a highway in Utah, your family could be entitled to compensation for the resulting medical bills, income losses, funeral expenses, burial expenses, pain and suffering, and other hardships you are going through because of the crash.  Depending on the circumstances, truckers can be liable for accidents.  Count on Utah wrongful death attorney Darwin Overson to provide caring, compassionate support throughout every step of the legal process, upholding your rights and fighting for justice on your family’s behalf.  To arrange a free, confidential legal consultation with Darwin, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143.


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