The trucking industry is a crucial part of the American economy. However, truck accidents are also a major cause of injuries and fatalities on US highways. Drug and alcohol use by truck drivers is a significant contributing factor to truck crashes. This article will examine drug and alcohol use among truckers in Mississippi and the effects on accident rates in the state. If you are impacted by an accident, speak to a Jackson personal injury attorney for assistance with your case.
Drug Use Among Truck Drivers
Various studies have shown high rates of drug use among truck drivers nationwide. One study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that over 40,000 truck drivers tested positive for marijuana in 2022, a 32% increase over the previous year. Amphetamines, methamphetamines and cocaine also showed in the top four most used drugs by truck drivers. Some studies found drivers tested positive for numerous substances. Furthermore, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) estimates that 20% of all vehicle fatalities in the state involve alcohol.
Reasons for drug and alcohol use include coping with the stress and exhaustion of long hauls, battling sleep deprivation, improving focus, and recreation. Most companies require pre-employment testing, but random drug tests are less common. Some illicit users beat testing by switching to substances like synthetic urine that can evade detection. Drivers using drugs like marijuana and alcohol also exhibit impaired judgment that affects compliance with testing policies.
Impact on Accidents
It’s estimated that drug use contributes to around 20% of large truck accidents nationwide. Drug use impairs faculties like reaction time, coordination, and focus that are essential for operating heavy trucks. Stimulants make drivers more prone to risk-taking and reckless behaviors like speeding and tailgating. Marijuana affects abilities like memory and attention. Multi-substance use exacerbates risks as different drugs interact.
A 2022 study found truckers who tested positive for drugs had 5 times the rate of accidents compared to those testing negative. The government estimates drug use causes around 5000 truck crashes a year. These often involve severe injuries like spinal cord trauma and brain damage given the massive size disparity between big rigs and passenger vehicles.
Mississippi unfortunately struggles with a high rate of deadly truck crashes compared to other states. According to the most recent data:
- There were 108 large truck crash fatalities in Mississippi in the latest recorded year. This represents a concerning increase of over 96 percent compared to the truck crash fatality rate just ten years ago.
- The truck crash fatality rate per million population was 31.14. This was the 3rd highest rate among all US states, pointing to a disproportionate level of fatal truck accidents in the state.
- Over half (56.65 percent) of deadly truck crashes occurred in rural areas, with the remaining 43.35 percent occurring in urban environments.
- Around a quarter (25.09 percent) of fatal truck crashes took place on interstate highways. The other 74.91 percent happened on non-interstate roadways.
- The majority (64.12 percent) of fatal crashes happened during daytime hours, while 35.88 percent occurred at night.
- Around 83 percent of deadly truck crashes and 88 percent of non-fatal crashes took place on weekdays from Monday to Friday.
- Approximately 5.54 percent of fatal crashes occurred within active construction work zones.
- September saw the highest rate of fatal truck crashes at over 10 percent of the annual total. February experienced the fewest at just 6.6 percent.
- Drug impairment was a factor in 6.4% of all truck crash fatalities based on available data.
These sobering statistics illustrate the heightened dangers from truck accidents in Mississippi compared to many other states. Going forward, implementing effective solutions to improve truck safety on state highways and roads will be crucial.
Reducing Drug Abuse
There are several important steps that can be taken to reduce the rates of drug and alcohol abuse among truck drivers:
- Expanding Random Drug Testing – Companies should implement more frequent and random drug testing protocols to regularly check for illicit substance use. Knowing they could be tested at any time can deter drug use and help identify drivers who have developed a substance abuse issue.
- Hair Testing – Traditional urine testing only detects recent drug use from the last few days. Hair testing can identify patterns of illicit drug use going back months by analyzing biomarkers trapped in hair follicles. This can help identify drivers who abstain prior to scheduled urine tests.
- Driver Monitoring Systems – Installing video cameras and sensors in trucks can monitor driver behaviors and alert to signs of impairment like swerving, abrupt braking, and fatigue. This allows companies to intervene before an accident occurs.
- Fatigue Detection Technologies – Systems like optical sensors that track blinking patterns and steering wheel monitors can detect if a driver is becoming drowsy and alert them to rest when needed. This can reduce accidents from exhausted drivers using stimulants to stay awake.
- Counseling and Addiction Resources – Companies should provide access to counseling services, rehab programs, therapy, and addiction treatment resources. This allows drivers to get help confidentially without job repercussions. Developing support groups among drivers can also help.
- Drug Abuse Education – Training programs educating drivers on risks, warning signs, and healthier alternatives to drug use can prevent abuse from starting. Teaching stress relief, fatigue avoidance, and time management allows drivers to develop safer coping mechanisms.
- Review Company Culture – If substance abuse is widespread, reviewing aspects like compensation, loading schedules, and supervision that may perpetuate an unhealthy company culture can help address root causes. A supportive environment improves morale and reduces desire to abuse drugs.
With a combination of these efforts, trucking companies can work to significantly curb drug and alcohol abuse among drivers and improve road safety. But it requires sustained commitment, investment, and proactive policies.
Drug and alcohol abuse among truck drivers is a serious concern, contributing to thousands of avoidable accidents each year. In Mississippi, toxicology reports show a significant portion of truckers involved in fatal crashes test positive for illicit substances. While organizations can take measures to enhance oversight and reduce substance use, individual drivers also bear responsibility. Seeking professional help for substance issues, prioritizing proper rest, and adopting healthy stress management can lead to safer outcomes for truckers and motorists alike.
Those who have been impacted by an accident should consider seeking legal advice from a personal injury lawyer like Monge & Associates to understand their options for obtaining compensation. We have offices in 32 locations across 19 states including Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama.
Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597 if you’ve been involved in an accident with a truck that wasn’t your fault.