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Most Common Illegal Drugs Involved in Large Truck Accidents

Drug test form with prescription pill bottle and pen.

Most truck drivers are underpaid, work overtime, and are pressured to stay awake to make deliveries. Stressed, isolated, and overworked, some drivers turn to drugs to increase their productivity. This tactic can backfire in terrible ways and is more common than many people realize.

A 2013 international study found that half of truckers admitted to drinking on the job, and 30% said they had used amphetamines while working (American Addiction Centers). It’s no wonder then, that drugs and alcohol contribute to large truck crashes on U.S. highways and roads.

If you’ve been injured by a tractor-trailer or semi-truck, it’s possible that drugs or alcohol were involved. An experienced lawyer can help investigate the trucking company and uncover drug use, cover-ups, and other negligent practices.

Top 5 Drugs for Which Truck Drivers Tested Positive

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported in 2020 that drug and alcohol tests for 28,445 truck drivers came back positive. The most common illegal drugs taken were:

  1. Marijuana
  2. Cocaine
  3. Methamphetamine
  4. Amphetamine
  5. Oxymorphone

Other illegal drugs less commonly found in truck drivers’ systems include MDMA (ecstasy), MDA (sass), morphine, PCP, and traces of heroin.

Younger drivers with less experience are more likely to turn to stimulants to remain productive. Of the drivers surveyed who admitted to drug use, 21% used amphetamines and 2% used cocaine. Some amphetamines are used for treatments like ADHD, so they are easier to obtain.

Side Effects of Common Truck Driver Drugs

Drivers use drugs to stay awake, boost energy, and alleviate boredom. However, these stimulants can impair a driver’s ability to operate their large vehicles safely. The side effects truck drivers may deal with while driving impaired include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Apprehension
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Difficulty problem-solving and thinking
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Erratic or aggressive behavior
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired memory
  • Slurred speech
  • Increased body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low blood pressure
  • Mood swings and disturbances
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nosebleeds
  • Obsessive behaviors
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Slower reaction times
  • Teeth grinding
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo

A truck driver under the influence of drugs is at greater risk of crossing lines and medians, hitting objects or vehicles, and missing important traffic signs. Such mistakes will most likely occur on the interstate or wide high-speed roads with heavy traffic.

How Can You Tell If a Truck Driver Was Negligent and on Drugs?

It’s not always obvious that a driver was under the influence of drugs at the scene of a crash. The shock and trauma, the chaos of the aftermath, might mask any signs. The police report may not mention it.

The good news is that truck drivers in most circumstances are required to submit to blood tests after a crash. The bad news is that trucking companies and their medical review officers (MROs) don’t always cooperate with drug testing requirements. They may have knowledge of or suspect a prior drug violation or delay seeking a drug test after a crash, and try to hide or bury the information.

If the insurance company isn’t cooperative, here’s how a truck accident lawyer would go about searching for proof of drug use and how it contributed to your injuries:

  • Demand results of a truck driver’s drug and blood tests (if a drug test was not done within 32 hours, request documentation on the reasons why).
  • Request and review medical and driving records.
  • Collect witness statements and any camera footage.
  • Compare statements from the truck driver and other witnesses to look for discrepancies.
  • Have expert witnesses testify about the presence of drugs and how they contributed to causing the crash.

DOT Drug Test Requirements

Trucking companies are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). They are required to conduct drug tests at specific times before and after hiring a commercial driver. Drivers should be tested for drugs:

  • before employment;
  • after an accident that results in death;
  • after an accident that results in injury and a citation was issued;
  • randomly;
  • if there is reasonable suspicion;
  • before a return to duty;
  • and with regular follow-ups after a return to duty or reasonable suspicion.

If an applicant fails a pre-employment DOT drug test, their conditional job offer should be withdrawn and a report filed. If an employee fails a drug test while on the job, the employer can provide them with a list of DOT-approved substance abuse professionals.

DOT drug tests are more rigorous than regular drug tests — and a recent 2023 amendment added the option to test saliva to the program. Results are delivered between one to five days.

Next Steps to Take After a Large Truck Hits You

Truck crashes often involve painful and terrible injuries, with long hospital stays, multiple surgeries, and bed rest. It can be difficult to know what to do next after a truck accident. But the sooner you research your legal options, the better.

If the truck driver was at fault for the crash, you may be entitled to financial compensation from the trucker’s insurance company for your pain and losses. However, if you are contacted by the insurance company (which is more than likely), here’s what you need to avoid:

  • giving the insurance adjuster a statement;
  • accepting a settlement offer;
  • or signing any legal documents.

Don’t accept any offers from the insurance company until you’ve spoken with an experienced truck accident lawyer first. The insurance company is not looking out for your best interests — they are trying to avoid liability and hoping to trick you into settling your case for cheap.

Contact an Atlanta Truck Law Attorney

If you, a family member, or a friend suffered injuries in a large truck accident, ask for a free consultation with Gary Martin Hays & Associates. We are here to listen and advise you on the best course of legal action.

Our dedicated team can immediately begin an investigation into the causes of the crash and pursue every available option to get you the maximum settlement you deserve.

Our operators are available 24/7. Call us at (770) 934-8000 or fill out one of our online contact forms. The sooner you choose us to represent you, the sooner we can preserve evidence and protect your interests.

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