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Stoned Behind the Wheel of a Semi: Growing Opioid Use by Truckers Raises Crash Risk in Oklahoma


Opioid use has increased dramatically and it is having an impact on the trucking industry in the United States. A group of major trucking companies have petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to change their method of drug testing for truck drivers from urinalysis to hair follicle testing.

The use of the word “epidemic” might have lost all its impact lately from over-use in reference to increased opioid abuse in America, but there is no better way to describe the fact that on any given day in the United States, about 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed, 3,900 people use prescription opioids for non-medical purposes and 78 people die from an opioid-related overdose. In 2014 (most recent numbers available) more people died from drug overdoses than any other year on record with most those overdoses being opioid-related. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Currently, the FMCSA uses urine testing for drug screening, but the major trucking carriers want to use hair testing because, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, hair analysis provides long-term information that covers months to years and reveals the severity and pattern of drug use. Urinalysis can only indicate drug use in the past 2-3 days. A study published in Forensic science international about the impact of opioid use on crash responsibility in truck drivers involved in fatal crashes, reports that medication and drug use while driving is an important risk factor in large truck crashes. The study found that male truck drivers using opioid analgesics had greater odds of committing an unsafe driver action.

Reuters published an article in 2013 about the growing use of drug use and it dangers for commercial truck drivers. The Reuters study reported that about 20% of truckers admitted to using marijuana, 12.5% tested positive for alcohol and three percent admitted that they had used cocaine.

Trucking companies are duly concerned about the safety of their drivers and their equipment, but they are also aware of their liability for any truck crashes, injuries and deaths that their truck drivers might cause while working for them under the influence of drugs.

A person who suffers a serious injury or someone who loses a loved one in a crash with a large, commercial truck can file a lawsuit against the driver and their employer. Trucking companies are taking steps by requesting the more thorough hair testing for drug use because the results are more reliable and cover a wider span of time.

When you have suffered a serious injury in a truck crash that was caused by the negligence of another, you may have many questions that one of our skilled, Oklahoma truck accident attorneys can answer for you. We will evaluate the facts of your case, your medical records and devise a legal strategy and work diligently to investigate the accident and fight for fair compensation for your injuries. You are welcome to call (918) 505-7741 or complete our contact form to schedule a free case evaluation in our McAlester office. We serve families throughout the state of Oklahoma.