NHTSA Has No Idea How Many Drug-Impaired Truck Drivers Are Out There

Drug Impaired Truck Driver AccidentsLaw enforcement has many methods of testing for alcohol-impaired driving and they can decisively identify those driving drunk. There is an imbalance, however, in enforcement when it comes to drug-impaired driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for ensuring road safety and minimizing risks associated with impaired driving. However, a critical issue that some drivers have feared is beginning to receive the attention it deserves.

As of today, the fact is that the NHTSA lacks comprehensive data on drug-impaired truck drivers. This glaring knowledge gap poses a significant challenge in formulating effective strategies to combat drug-impaired driving among all road users, but especially commercial truck operators. With the increasing concern over road safety, the NHTSA must address this issue promptly and take decisive action to protect our Nashville roads.

Is drug-impaired driving a big threat to me on the road?

Yes. Drug-impaired driving poses a significant threat to public safety and the trucking industry is no exception. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 11 million Americans admitted to driving under the influence of illegal drugs in 2021. While these statistics are not specific to truck drivers, it gives a sense of the prevalence of this behavior in our society and we should share the roads with these massive vehicles with these statistics in mind.

There are over 3.5 million truck drivers on the road today in the United States. We see there is a societal substance abuse problem as well as an ever-growing demand for freight drivers. To prevent a rise in truck accidents, the NHTSA needs to make a change for our safety as road users. Current data collection methods fall short, making it difficult for lawmakers and law enforcement to make significant changes.

How does data collection continue to fall short regarding drug-impaired driving?

One major hurdle in obtaining accurate data on drug-impaired truck drivers is the lack of standardized testing procedures. While alcohol impairment can be measured reliably through breathalyzers and blood tests, drug impairment is a notably more complex process. Unlike alcohol, which has well-established legal limits and has seen increased punishment for Tennessee drivers in recent legislation, determining drug impairment involves identifying specific substances and their concentration levels in the driver’s bloodstream. A lack of consistent testing framework across states further complicates data collection efforts, meaning our legal limits on drugs in Nashville may be different from limits in our neighboring states.

Another challenge lies in the limited availability of resources dedicated to drug impairment detection. Law enforcement agencies often lack the necessary training, equipment, and resources to conduct comprehensive drug tests at roadside stops. With the cost and time required to properly conduct a drug test, it is not realistic to test on a standard roadside stop. Aside from drug use on the road not being thwarted, this lack of detection technology hurts data collection efforts on our Tennessee roads.

There are also practices that counteract the effort to accurately collect data on drug-impairment on the roads. In some jurisdictions, toxicology reports testing for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exclude additional drug testing if BAC exceeds the legal limit. This approach, known as “stop-testing,” focuses on alcohol-impaired driving, ignoring information on situations where alcohol is combined with other drugs.

How has the NHTSA failed to protect road users from drug-impaired truck drivers?

As the agency responsible for highway safety, the NHTSA should prioritize collecting accurate and up-to-date data on drug-impaired truck drivers. However, it is evident that the NHTSA has fallen short in addressing this critical issue. Despite acknowledging the problem, the agency has not implemented robust mechanisms for data collection.

Currently, the NHTSA relies heavily on self-reporting by truck drivers, which is a totally unreliable method for obvious reasons. Furthermore, the agency primarily focuses on post-crash investigations, missing out on valuable data regarding drug-impaired drivers who may have avoided accidents but are still a significant risk on our Nashville roads.

What must the NHTSA do to make our roads safer for everyone?

To bridge the gap in knowledge surrounding drug-impaired truck drivers, the NHTSA must take simple but decisive action:

  • Standardize drug testing protocols: The NHTSA should collaborate with law enforcement agencies, trucking associations, and medical experts, to establish standardized drug testing protocols. These protocols should be based on scientific research and should cover a broad range of commonly used substances, both legal and illegal.
  • Enhance training and resources: Going hand-in-hand with establishing testing protocols, law enforcement agencies should receive specialized training and resources to conduct reliable drug tests during roadside stops.

The NHTSA’s lack of comprehensive data on drug-impaired truck drivers is a serious concern for your safety on our Nashville roads. As drug abuse continues to be a pervasive issue in our society, it is imperative that the agency takes immediate action to address this knowledge gap.

We can talk about what the NHTSA should do as much as we want, but if commercial truck drivers drive impaired they must be held accountable. That’s where Rocky McElhaney and his experienced team of passionate attorneys comes in. If you have suffered injuries, damages, or losses in a truck accident we can support you through this difficult time and hold the negligent party accountable for their actions.

But as we continue to live in a world where “ignorance is bliss,” we should be cautious drivers around the big rigs, as any accident can be catastrophic when involved with these giants of the road. If you or a loved one has been involved in one of these accidents, do not delay. Seek the tenacious and trusted legal representation from the team at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm to ensure the truck driver, the trucking company and any liable parties are held accountable for yours or your family members’ accident. Contact us today at any of our convenient Nashville, Hendersonville, or Clarksville locations for a free consultation.