Articles Posted in Drug or Alcohol Related Accidents

Last month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a truck accident case that is of interest to Maryland truck accident victims because it deals with how courts should handle evidence of a plaintiff’s marijuana use at a personal injury trial. Ultimately, the court determined that admitting the fact that the plaintiff had previously used marijuana, but not within the 36 hours leading up to the accident, would not be proper. Thus, the court prevented the defendant’s expert witness from testifying to that effect.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving southbound on the highway in the evening hours. The defendant was a truck driver who was also traveling on the highway, although in the opposite direction. The defendant had previously pulled off the highway to take a nap and was pulling back onto the highway when he struck the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff has no recollection of the accident, although his passenger testified that the truck suddenly appeared in their lane, and, despite the plaintiff’s attempts to avoid the truck, he was unable to do so. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries and was hospitalized as a result. During his hospitalization, he was asked if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He responded that he occasionally smokes marijuana but had not within the past 36 hours.

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While there are many causes of Maryland truck accidents, most truck accidents are caused by intoxicated, distracted, or sleepy drivers. Intoxication is such a problem among truck drivers that many states have implemented stricter blood-alcohol content allowances for all commercial drivers. For example, commercial drivers are not permitted to have a blood-alcohol content of .04 or greater, while other motorists are limited at a .08 blood-alcohol content.

Alcohol intoxication is certainly responsible for a large share of the total number of truck accidents involving intoxication. However, the use of illegal drugs seems to be increasing among truck drivers over the past few years. In part, this is due to the pressures inherent in the long-haul trucking profession, which places an emphasis on getting cargo to the final destination as quickly as possible. This pressure leads some drivers to take illegal drugs in an effort to stay awake longer and travel more miles per day. Of course, illegal drugs are not without their side effects. Too often, drivers who take stimulants to stay awake find themselves drifting off as the drugs wear off.

Truck Driver Faces Felony Charges for Intoxicated Driving

Earlier this month, two people were seriously injured when the vehicle in which they were traveling was struck by a truck driver who had drifted out of his lane and into oncoming traffic. According to a local news source covering the accident, it was around 4 p.m. as the truck driver was en route to his final destination when he inexplicably crossed over the center line and into oncoming traffic.

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Earlier this year in March, an accident involving a school bus, a passenger car, and a semi-truck claimed the lives of two men and injured several of the students on board the bus. The accident occurred when the semi-truck inexplicably veered out of its lane, across the center median, and into the path of the school bus. The driver of the school bus was able to swerve to avoid a collision; however, the high-school track coach driving in a vehicle behind the bus was struck head-on by the semi-truck.

After evading the oncoming semi-truck, the school-bus driver lost control of the vehicle as it ran off the side of the road. The track coach and the semi-truck driver both died in the collision. In all, 18 students were hospitalized, most with non-life threatening injuries.

According to a recent news report, the police conducted toxicology tests on the semi-truck driver after the collision. The results came back showing that he had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the collision.

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Drunk driving has long been a concern among lawmakers and motorists when it comes to those who operate large trucks for a living. While the majority of truck drivers obey the laws requiring they remain free from the effects of drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel, the reality is that too many truck drivers break the rules when it is convenient for them do so.

For example, some truck drivers use illegal stimulant drugs so that they can remain alert and travel longer distances per day. This is important for many truck drivers, who are compensated on a per-mile basis. However, while stimulant use may temporarily increase a driver’s alertness, it can also have unanticipated consequences, including difficulties maintaining concentration, sudden fatigue, and an altered sense of which risks are acceptable to take while behind the wheel.

Maryland lawmakers understand the dangers drunk truck drivers pose and have enacted strict penalties for any truck driver found to be operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Rather than the .08 blood-alcohol limit applicable to most motorists, commercial truck drivers are subject to the lower limit of .04 blood-alcohol content. This can be as little as one or two drinks in a period of two hours.

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With drunk or otherwise intoxicated driving being one of the leading causes of serious and fatal truck accidents, lawmakers have started to consider new methods of drug testing truck drivers. The newest method, hair-follicle testing, has been proposed recently but is being met with some harsh criticism.

According to one news source, hair-follicle testing can detect drug use up to 90 days in the past, whereas urine testing generally can only go back a couple of weeks, depending on the drug. This could be useful in both criminal and civil contexts, when either an injured accident victim or a prosecutor wants to determine if a truck driver was under the influence at the time of an accident.

Not everyone agrees, however, that the new method of testing is a good idea. The AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD), which is essentially the truck drivers’ union, opposes the new method, claiming that it is not as scientifically accurate and also that there may be racial implications in the test’s use.

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The early morning hours of May 28 was not a good time to be traveling southbound on 301. According to a report by the Star Democrat, a truck driver was involved in an accident at around four in the morning that blocked all three southbound lanes near Millington.

Evidently, the truck driver got into an accident that resulted in the truck overturning in the middle of the highway. Responding officers cited the driver for driving under the influence. Due to the blockage of all three lanes of southbound traffic, traffic authorities had to come up with a detour. They chose to reroute drivers down Route 544.

A few minutes later, a truck driver stopped to ask police for directions because he was unfamiliar with the area. Police directed the driver to head west onto Route 544. However, as he did so, he was struck by another semi-truck. This accident blocked the intersection of Route 544 and 301, so a second detour than had to be arranged.

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