Truck Driver Drug Usage And Truck Accidents

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For more than 25 years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States has been studying truck drivers and their use of various drugs. The issue is one for serious concern.

According to the research documented by the NTSB, drug usage by truck drivers has been a major factor in truck accidents, both fatal and non-fatal. Most of the fatalities in truck accidents involve passenger vehicle drivers (about 79%). But when drug usage is involved, there is a very high percentage of fatalities of truck drivers, in addition to that of others.

Long hours behind the wheel of the trucks, and unending roads and highways, are a regular part of the lives of truck drivers. The isolation of long hours on the road without much communication with others, as well as the tedious nature of the job, often leads truck drivers to use, and also to abuse, drugs and alcohol.

In a relatively recent study, 85% of all truck drivers surveyed said that methamphetamines were easily available at truck stops. Methamphetamines use is prevalent among truck drivers, due to the fact that they allow the drivers to stay awake longer, log more miles, and deliver their cargo to its final destination that much sooner.

Controlling Truck Driver Drug Usage

The high instances of truck accidents occurring as a direct result of drug use by the truck drivers has led the Safety Board to pass strict rules and guidelines for truck drivers and their employers. These laws first came into effect in 1988.

At this time, the Safety Board made it mandatory for all employers of truck drivers with more than 50 employees to randomly screen their employees (truck drivers) for drug usage by taking routine urine samples and having them tested for the presence of illegal drugs. At least half of all their truck drivers are supposed to be tested in any given year.

Because of the implementation of these requirements, the instances of drug usage among truck drivers saw a gradual decline over the next few years. But after the initial success, there was not enough compliance with the rules, and in the absence of proper monitoring by the government, drug usage increased once more, and so did truck accidents as a result of the drug abuse.

A large number of people are of the opinion that driving while high or drugged is less of a risk to the safety of all people on the road than drunk driving is. However, this is completely untrue. While alcohol may have a noticeable affect on a person's reflexes and reaction time for a few hours, marijuana is able to affect a person's concentration, perception, and reaction time for up to twenty-four hours after it is smoked. This is much longer than alcohol.

Truck Drivers and Drug Usage

Regular studies and toxicological tests on truck drivers by the NTSB have revealed the following:

1)Up to 35% of all truck drivers who die in truck accidents test positive for some kind of illegal drugs.
2)The drugs that are most used by truck drivers are: alcohol and marijuana (at 13% of all drugs used), cocaine (9%), amphetamines/methamphetamines (7%), other stimulants (5%), with phencyclidine (PCP) and codeine being used in less than 1% of the cases involving truck driver fatalities.
3)Drug usage, including alcohol, by truck drivers is the second largest contributing factor for truck accidents.
4)Of all the truck drivers who are involved in truck accidents due to fatigue, 33% also test positive for drug use.
5)The instances of truck accidents due to drug usage by the truck drivers seem to be at their highest on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.
6)Truck drivers who are separated or divorced, test positive for drug use more often than those who are married or in meaningful relationships.

These studies show that drug abuse is a significant cause of truck accidents, which take the lives of as many as 5,000 people every year. There is an immediate need to enforce, and monitor the enforcement of, rules that disallow truck drivers from using alcohol or other drugs prior to driving any kind of big truck.


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