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San Jose trucking accident lawyersThe trucking industry is absolutely essential to the flow of goods across the United States. An estimated 80 percent of U.S. cargo is transported by hard-working men and women who drive tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, and other large trucks. Driving a semi-truck across the country can a tedious and isolating job. Truck drivers are expected to endure harsh road and weather conditions, long periods of time away from family and friends, and erratic sleep schedules. Unfortunately, some truck drivers turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the strenuousness of their job. Considering how destructive truck accidents can be, the prevalence of drug and alcohol use in truck drivers is extremely concerning.

Fatal Truck Accidents on the Rise

The same features that make 18-wheelers and other large trucks so useful for transportation make them deadly during a traffic accident. A large truck cannot maneuver through traffic the way an averaged sized vehicle can. If a stalled vehicle suddenly blocks the road ahead, for example, cars may have enough time to dodge the stalled vehicle or come to a stop. A fully-loaded tractor-trailer takes approximately 20-40 percent farther to come to a stop than a small car does. This difference in stopping time can mean the difference between life and death. Data shows that there were just under 4000 fatalities caused by truck crashes in 2016. This number represents a 27 percent increase from the number of fatalities in 2009.  

Half of Truck Drivers Admit to Drinking and Driving

In an extensive worldwide study of truck drivers published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, it was found that half of truck drivers admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol. Nearly one-third of truck drivers surveyed admitted to using amphetamines. When participants in the study were tested for drugs and alcohol, 12.5 percent of U.S. truck drivers tested positive for alcohol. Although many truck drivers are already required to submit to drug testing, many people are advocating for stricter rules regarding truck driver drug and alcohol use. If a truck driver causes a serious auto accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she can be held liable for the damages caused.

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When we read or hear about fatal traffic accidents, it's not uncommon or surprising to learn that alcohol or drugs were involved. A new study on alcohol and drug use among drivers killed in crashes offers some startling statistics that remind us of the very real danger of driving while intoxicated. But it also indicates that we have much more to learn about the effects of combining some of those intoxicants, even in small amounts.

The study's central finding was that among U.S. drivers who were killed in car accidents, more than half had drugs or alcohol in their system at the time of the crash. It also determined that male and nighttime drivers killed in crashes were most likely to have drugs or alcohol appear on a toxicology screen.

The study used National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on fatal accidents in 14 states from the years 2005 to 2009. Of the more than 20,000 drivers who died, 57 percent tested for at least one drug, including alcohol. About one out of every five drivers had multiple drugs appear on their toxicology screens, with alcohol being the most common. Less than 50 percent of women killed in crashes had alcohol or drugs in their system, while 60 percent of men tested positive for these substances. When it came to race, blacks and whites had the same likelihood of testing positive, while Asians were significantly less likely and Native Americans much more likely.

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