Tractor-trailer drivers and alcohol consumption

Recent statistics point to a growing and alarming trend: tractor-trailer accidents are on the rise. From 2016 to 2017, the number of large trucks involved in injury crashes increased by 5 percent, while those involved in fatal crashes increased by 10 percent.

A recent accident in Chesterfield County is raising questions, both about the rise of tractor-trailer accidents and alcohol consumption. On August 7, 2019 the driver of a tractor-trailer that overturned and injured two people on I-95 was charged with a DUI. According to the Virginia State Police, the tractor-trailer driver was heading southbound in the right lane when he veered into the left lane, striking an SUV and then hitting an embankment.

Drivers of large commercial vehicles such as semis or tractor-trailers are behind the wheel for a living and operate these vehicles for long hours.  This means there are far more opportunities for fatigue, inadvertence, mechanical defects, or other problems that could lead to disaster. Add alcohol into the mix, and the risk of damages increases dramatically.

Tractor trailer driving by a car broken down on the side of the road

In 2013, two percent of large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had BACs of .08 percent or higher.

Every day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. That is one death every 50 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.

Alcohol consumption is a factor when analyzing the cause of truck accidents, however, according to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, it’s one of the lesser ones.

Causes of tractor-trailer accidents rank as follows:

  • 27% are due to brake problems,
  • 19% to driver unfamiliarity with the route,
  • 7% to fatigue,
  • 5% to aggressive driving,
  • 3% to tire failure,
  • 1% to an ill driver,
  • 0.4% to being under the influence of illegal substances, and
  • 0.3% to the consumption of alcohol.

The consequences of a crash caused by a tractor-trailer tend to be far more serious than those caused by a standard motor vehicle. Accordingly, Virginia’s DUI laws are much harsher for individuals who hold commercial driver’s licenses.

While regular drivers are prohibited from operating a vehicle when they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or greater, the legal limit for drivers of commercial vehicles in Virginia is only half that — .04 percent. Depending upon weight, the average person can reach that level after just one drink.

In 2013, two percent of large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had BACs of .08 percent or higher. By comparison, the percentages of drivers with BACs of .08 percent or higher were 23 percent for passenger cars, 21 percent for light trucks, and 27 percent for motorcycles.

Drunk drivers of large commercial vehicles such as 18-wheelers and tractor-trailers have the potential of causing serious damage or injury to others. Such reckless conduct should be brought to justice. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a collision involving a commercial motor vehicle, it is important to retain an attorney. Click here to schedule a free consultation.