What Happens When Truck Drivers Drive Under the Influence?

The rumbling of eighteen-wheelers on the highways is a familiar and essential aspect of our modern world. These colossal vehicles are the lifeblood of commerce, delivering goods across vast distances and keeping our economy in motion. However, monumental responsibilities come with operating such massive machines, with catastrophic consequences for neglecting that responsibility.

Few actions are as reckless and potentially lethal as driving under the influence. When a truck driver takes to the road with alcohol or drugs in their system, they are at greater risk of causing an accident with life-threatening, if not fatal, injuries.

If you or a loved one was in an accident with a drunk truck driver, you may recover compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings, and other damages. Contact a truck accident lawyer to learn your rights.

What is Driving Under the Influence in New York State?

Truck Drivers Drive Under The Influence

New York State prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including illegal drugs or prescription medications that impair one’s ability to drive. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles typically refers to driving under the influence as either Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI).

Driving While Intoxicated

For drivers 21 years of age and older, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher is considered evidence of intoxication and can result in a DWI charge. New York imposes a Zero Tolerance Law on individuals under 21 years old. Any detectable amount of alcohol in their system can result in a DWI charge.

Penalties for a DWI conviction in New York may include fines, driver’s license suspension or revocation, mandatory participation in a state-approved Impaired Driver Program, and, in some cases, imprisonment. Penalties can increase for repeat offenses.

Driving While Ability Impaired

A driver who operates a vehicle with a BAC between 0.05 percent and 0.07 percent or who shows evidence of impairment due to alcohol or drugs can face a DWAI charge.

Penalties for a DWAI conviction are generally less severe than those for a DWI, but they may include fines, license suspension, and mandatory participation in an Impaired Driver Program.

How Do Driving Under the Influence Laws in New York Differ for Commercial Truck Drivers?

DUI laws in New York State differ for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) compared to non-commercial drivers. The law holds commercial truck drivers to higher standards due to the risks associated with operating large, heavy vehicles.

The law subjects commercial truck drivers to a lower BAC limit. In New York, the BAC limit for commercial drivers is generally 0.04 percent. This lower limit reflects the increased responsibility and potential danger associated with operating large commercial vehicles.

What Penalties Do New York Trucks Who Drive Under the Influence Face?

By holding a CDL and driving a commercial vehicle in the state, commercial truck drivers in New York, like all drivers, implicitly agree to submit to chemical testing, such as a Breathalyzer or blood test, if law enforcement suspects DUI. Refusal to submit to these tests can result in penalties, including CDL suspension.

Commercial truck drivers who drive under the influence fave more severe penalties than non-commercial drivers.

Penalties include:

  • First conviction: CDL revoked for at least 18 months, fine of $1,000-$5,000, and jail time of up to one year.
  • Second conviction: CDL revoked permanently, fine of $1,500-$10,000, and jail time of up to four years.
  • Third conviction: CDL revoked permanently, fine of $2,000-$15,000, and jail time of up to seven years.

In addition to state laws, commercial truck drivers must comply with regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA sets guidelines and regulations for commercial drivers, including rules related to drug and alcohol testing, as well as specific requirements for reporting any positive test results.

What if a Truck Driver Causes an Accident While Under the Influence?

If a truck driver causes an accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can face severe consequences, both legally and in terms of safety.

The truck driver may face criminal charges for DUI or DWAI. The specific charges and their severity will depend on the driver’s BAC level, prior DUI convictions, and any aggravating factors. In addition to state DUI laws, federal regulations for commercial truck drivers may also apply, which can result in further legal consequences.

Law enforcement and authorities will investigate to determine the cause of the accident, including whether the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This investigation may involve field sobriety tests, blood or breath tests, and accident reconstruction. If a court convicts the driver of DUI or DWAI, they may face fines, license suspension or revocation, imprisonment, mandatory substance abuse programs, probation, and other legal consequences.

Truck drivers convicted of drunk driving or driving with drugs in their system may lose their jobs. Many trucking companies have strict policies against impaired driving, and a DUI conviction can make it difficult for the driver to find employment in the industry. A DUI conviction and the associated accident may result in a criminal record, which can have long-term consequences on the driver’s personal and professional life.

In addition to criminal charges, the truck driver and their employer may face civil liability for the accident. Victims of the accident may file personal injury lawsuits to seek compensation for medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering, and other damages.

How Can Alcohol or Drugs Affect a Trucker’s Ability to Drive?

Alcohol and drugs can significantly impair a truck driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely. The effects of alcohol or drugs on a truck driver can have serious consequences, including an increased risk of accidents and injuries.

Here are some ways in which alcohol or drugs can affect a truck driver:

  • Impaired Reaction Time: Alcohol and drugs, including prescription and illegal substances, can slow a driver’s reaction time. This means that it takes longer for a driver to perceive a hazard and react appropriately, increasing the risk of collisions.
  • Reduced Coordination: Alcohol and certain drugs can impair a driver’s motor skills and coordination. This can lead to difficulties in steering, braking, and maintaining control of the truck.
  • Impaired Judgment: Alcohol or drugs, can impair a driver’s judgment. They may take risks they wouldn’t normally take, such as attempting risky maneuvers or driving too fast for road conditions.
  • Drowsiness: Some drugs, especially those that cause drowsiness or sedation, can lead to fatigue or drowsiness while driving. Fatigue causes many accidents, especially among long-haul truck drivers.
  • Altered Perception: Alcohol and drugs can distort a driver’s perception of their surroundings, making it difficult to accurately judge distances, speeds, and the location of other vehicles.
  • Decreased Attention and Concentration: Alcohol and drugs can lead to a lack of focus and concentration, distracting a driver. Distracted driving causes thousands of accidents every year.
  • Impaired Vision: Alcohol and some drugs can cause blurred or double vision. Impaired vision can prevent a driver from seeing road signs, other vehicles, or pedestrians.
  • Increased Aggressiveness: Some drugs, especially stimulants, can lead to aggressive or reckless behavior while driving, increasing the likelihood of road rage incidents.
  • Poor Decision-Making: Alcohol and certain drugs can impair a driver’s ability to make sound decisions. This may lead to choices that increase the risk of accidents, such as running red lights, making illegal turns, or driving unsafely.

Injured in an Accident with a Drunk Truck Driver? Contact a Lawyer Today to Protect Your Rights.

Accidents caused by truckers under the influence of drugs and alcohol are not only tragic but also preventable. The devastating consequences of these accidents extend far beyond the immediate victims, affecting families and communities.

Matthew H. Bligh, Attorney for Truck Accident in Long Island
Truck Accident Lawyer, Matthew H. Bligh

If you or a loved one were in such an accident, a truck accident lawyer can obtain justice and compensation for you. These legal professionals possess the knowledge and experience to navigate the complex world of trucking regulations, insurance claims, and personal injury law. They are dedicated to advocating for your rights and holding those responsible accountable for their actions.

Contact a Long Island personal injury lawyer from Rosenberg & Gluck LLP today for your free and confidential case evaluation, and let us explain how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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