According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 29 people died every day in the U.S. from alcohol-related vehicle crashes in 2016, meaning one fatality almost every 50 minutes. Drunk driving accidents can result in unfortunate injuries, no matter who is part of the accident. When the impaired driver is behind the wheel of a commercial truck, the damages can become extensive.
If you or a loved one was hit by a drunk truck driver, you might be able to file a claim. Figure out if you have a case by consulting with a Houston truck accident lawyer.
What Constitutes Drunk Driving?
While every state has different regulations on how much alcohol it deems permissible in your bloodstream while driving, all states prohibit a driver to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or above. Additionally, zero-tolerance laws prevent drivers under the age of 21 from drinking and driving. A BAC ranging anywhere from 0.02 to 0.15 causes effects like loss of judgment, exaggerated behavior, loss of muscle coordination, slurred speech and vomiting. Such effects have dangerous consequences when paired with a vehicle. One-third of traffic crash fatalities involve drunk drivers in the U.S.
What Makes Drunk Truck Driving Different?
Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) specifically prohibits the consumption of alcohol for truck drivers on-duty. Trucking companies are required to monitor their drivers through periodic drug and alcohol tests. Commercial drivers must adhere to a higher standard than regular drunk driving laws. Under the Texas Penal Code, a regular driver is intoxicated if he or she does not have “normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol” and if he or she has a BAC of more than 0.08%. However, regarding commercial drivers, Texas and the federal government lowered the percentage to 0.04%.
Furthermore, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) also imposes strict regulations on truck drivers, preventing the use of alcohol up to four hours before engaging in safety-sensitive truck functions. Trucking companies also have a responsibility to prevent their drivers from committing these activities. Under FMCSA, drivers are also subject to random alcohol and drug tests and are not allowed to refuse them.
Aside from the universal laws preventing drunk driving, a truck driver operating his or her vehicle while intoxicated is a violation of federal trucking safety codes. If truck drivers cause an accident while drunk, they and their companies can be liable for the crash.
How Can You Prove a Driver Is Drunk?
While an alcohol and drug test is the best option for determining a truck driver’s level of intoxication, Texas police must secure a warrant to perform the analysis. If the police or trucking company neglect to perform this test, there are several other ways to establish the presence of an impaired driver:
- Witnesses can provide good evidence of alcohol consumption. Witnesses at the scene of an accident can attest to the smell of alcohol or erratic behavior. If a driver was drinking at a restaurant, wait staff or co-drivers can provide evidence.
- Medical evidence. Many drunk truck drivers suffer injuries and end up at the hospital. Hospital blood tests can prove their BAC was higher than permitted by law.
To help your case, you should report any signs of trunk driving you noticed before the accident. If you can talk with the truck driver while waiting for the police, you can also report if the driver was acting drunk or if you smelled alcohol. While you report this information, it’s important that you remain objective, rather than trying to blame the truck driver – even if you are sure he or she is at fault.
If you’ve been in an accident caused by a drunk truck driver, then he or she is in violation of the law, and you should seek compensation for injuries. Obtaining the assistance of a qualified lawyer is vital to receiving the compensation you deserve.