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Commercial Truck Driving While Drunk Can Spell Disaster for Others on the Road

When semi trucks are involved in crashes, people can die. Most of the people that die are in smaller passenger vehicles traveling alongside the 18-wheelers. If semi truck drivers are intoxicated behind the wheel, the potential for harm is even greater. Data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that three percent of more than 10,000 fatal alcohol-related crashes in 2010 (the most recent year such data was available) were caused by commercial vehicle drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented special, stricter drug and alcohol testing policies for drivers with commercial driving licenses because there were more than 10,000 fatal alcohol related crashes in 2010. Also, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) each have special public education and law enforcement campaigns aimed at curbing drunk driving in every type of vehicle.

While the "front line" of the fight against drunk driving in commercial vehicles is primarily controlled by local and state law enforcement agencies, the line of defense begins with the FMCSA. The FMCSA and the USDOT hold commercial drivers to a higher standard when it comes to alcohol consumption.

The legal intoxication level of standard passenger vehicle drivers is .08 in the vast majority of jurisdictions. CDL holders are considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of .04. In its most basic sense, the stricter rules on CDL drivers encompass the importance of safe operation of larger vehicles. The legal blood alcohol concentration is much lower for CDL drivers because their vehicles have the potential to cause more harm.

Unlike standard vehicle operators, CDL drivers can be subject to alcohol breath or blood testing without the necessity of probable cause. USDOT and FMCSA rules provide that CDL operators can be subject to mandatory (random) testing after a crash where alcohol is suspected to be a factor, when there is suspicion of drunk driving (i.e. a law enforcement officer or FMCSA official smells like alcohol, the driver fails field sobriety tests, etc.) or when a driver is returning to work following an alcohol-related violation.

Big trucks can cause big crashes. Heightened alcohol regulations are still not enough to prevent all CDL drunk driving accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in an alcohol-related collision with a commercial truck driver, consult an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.

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