Truckers Driving Under the Influence Often Lead to Fatal North Carolina Car Accidents

The News & Observer reports that a recent fatal crash involving a tractor trailer on I-40 killed the drivers of three other vehicles. The driver of the semi-truck who caused the accident was found to have marijuana and methadone in his system, as well as drug paraphernalia in his cab.

Our Gastonia personal injury lawyers feel for the families who are dealing with the loss and devastation following what should have been three preventable deaths. Negligent behavior on behalf of the driver and the East Tennessee trucking company is a serious crime and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Too many times we see cases of drivers under the influence who cause a trucking accident in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Statesville or elsewhere where the driver should never have been hired by the trucking company in the first place. As is often the case, the driver had several previous blemishes on his record, including being a convicted rapist and burglar. He was driving on-duty for an East Tennessee trucking company which has also been cited for several violations by its employed drivers for drowsy and unsafe driving.

According to news reports, the tractor trailer first collided with a pickup truck followed by a collision with a Chevy Equinox. The third vehicle that was crashed into burst into flames and investigators couldn’t discover the make and model because of the damage. These three drivers were killed. A fourth vehicle involved in the accident was hit moments later as the tractor trailer kept making its way down the highway. The driver of the fourth vehicle was transported to the hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Driver fatigue is a common cause of large truck accidents throughout the country which is why the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been trying to get a handle on it.

We posted earlier this year on our North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog that the FMCSA is tightening down on the hours-of-service rules for trucking and charter bus companies and the drivers who are employed by them.

The East Tennessee trucking company involved in this fatal crash has been cited for 11 separate driver fatigue cases in which driver records reporting hours-of-service were false or incomplete. The company had also reported two previous crashes in 2010.

More important than driver fatigue in this incident was the use of drugs while the driver was on duty. The trucking company is required to test for drugs of any newly hired employee.

According to FMCSA, all employers and employees who operate a commercial motor vehicle in any state must be tested for marijuana, cocaine, opiates (which include opium and codeine derivatives), amphetamines and phencyclidine (PCP).

Tests that are required:

  • Pre-employment: negative results must be received before a driver is asked to perform any duty by a motor carrier company.
  • Reasonable suspicion: given to any employee that is suspected of using alcohol or a controlled substance by another trained supervisor or employer.
  • Random: drivers are selected randomly to keep employees drug-free. Driver names are to be kept confidential and the driver must immediately report to the drug testing center upon being selected.
  • Post-accident: any driver involved in a fatal crash or CDL drivers who are cited for moving violations in a crash resulting in injury must be tested for drugs and alcohol.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a trucking accident in North Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices, P.A. for a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Call 1-800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Drugs found at the scene of fatal I-40 wreck, by Thomas McDonald and Bruce Siceloff, The News & Observer posted in the Charlotte Observer

Blind Spots Increase the Risk of Asheville Trucking Accidents, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 13, 2011

Compliance with Safety Regulations an Issue for Experienced Attorneys Handling North Carolina Trucking Accidents, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, March 14, 2011

Data Recorders Will Result in Fewer Tractor-Trailer Accidents in the Carolinas, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, February 23, 2011

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