Tractor-trailers can be dangerous vehicles when they are not driven with care. This is partially because they can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as passenger vehicles weigh, they have large blind spots on all four sides and they require long distances when stopping.
Because of these and other challenges, tractor-trailers are operated by specially trained professionals. However, a truck driver’s job can involve many hours driving along monotonous highways with little to no human interaction, and although there are limits on how many hours truckers can work, many truckers feel pressure to drive for longer than they should. To help cope with these challenges, some truck drivers turn to drugs.
Truckers who use drugs seem to prefer amphetamines and cocaine. This is because these drugs can help them stay awake for long periods of time. Truckers also use alcohol, cannabis and other intoxicants.
However, consuming alcohol or drugs impairs a trucker’s ability to drive. Some drugs can also cause side effects that can be dangerous, such as hallucinations, hypertension, agitation or aggression. Eventually there is a "crash" when the invigorating effects of stimulant drugs wears off, creating another danger
Drowsy driving is another common problem among truckers. However, drug use can exacerbate this problem. Certain drugs may help drivers stay awake for longer periods of time. However, drug use gets in the way of the only cure for sleep deprivation by preventing the trucker from getting a good night’s rest.
Sleep deprivation can cause a driver to fall asleep at the wheel. However, drowsiness can also slow a driver’s reaction time, impair a driver’s decision-making ability and decrease a driver’s ability to pay attention to the road.
How to spot an impaired trucker
It can be difficult to tell when a trucker is driving while drugged or drowsy. Sometimes those driving passenger vehicles do not notice any dangerous behaviors until it is too late.
However, a trucker may not be at his or her best if the tractor-itrailer:
- Hits the rumble strip
- Drifts out of the lane
- Weaves within the lane or between other vehicles
- Tailgates the vehicle in front of it
When an 18-wheeler collides with a smaller vehicle, the occupants of the smaller vehicle can be severely injured. With this in mind, it can be especially important for other drivers to leave plenty of space around the semitrailer if they notice any dangerous behaviors. If another driver can do so safely, it may also be appropriate to alert the proper authorities.
If a truck driver’s reckless behavior injures someone, it may be appropriate to hold the driver responsible. No one should need to suffer because of someone else’s poor choices.