A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety showed that 15% of all interstate truck drivers had marijuana in their system, 12% had stimulants (non-prescription), 5% had prescription stimulants, 2% had cocaine and less than 1% had alcohol in their system.
Regarding alcohol use, a driver does not have to be drunk to be impaired. Even very low blood alcohol content (BAC) levels impair driving performance by reducing the driver’s reaction time and slowing his decision-making process. At the current time, the federal government prohibits commercial truck drivers, railroad and mass transit workers, marine employees, and aircraft pilots from operating vehicles with a BAC at or greater than 0.04%. The number of accidents caused by intoxicated truck drivers has actually decreased in recent years. Statistics show that approximately only 1-3% of trucking accidents are caused by an impaired truck driver.
Many people have the false notion that driving after smoking marijuana is safer than driving after drinking. This is simply not true. Marijuana can affect concentration, perception and reaction time as long as 24 hours after it is smoked. That is much, much longer than alcohol affects a driver’s behavior.
Marijuana has been found to be a factor in over 12% of fatal trucking accidents. In recent years, out of the truckers tested randomly for drugs and alcohol, a whopping 45% showed marijuana in their system.
Due to the very long hours they often have to work, truck drivers are always looking for ways to stay awake and alert to meet deadlines. It has been reported that 17 out of every 20 truckers say it is very easy to find methamphetamine at truck stops along their route. Truckers have recently been succumbing more and more to the powerful drug due to the fact it can keep people awake for several hours and sometimes days at a time. Surveys and roadside tests have indicated that one in five truckers use stimulants on some of their trips.
Perhaps there is a need for more drug testing of our nation’s truck drivers. Though most truckers are tested randomly after their date of hire, many of them even say it is not often enough.
By: Lynn Fugaro
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