If you were in a truck accident caused by an impaired driver, you may have assumed that he was driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. However, this may not have been the cause of his impairment. Many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can reduce a person’s ability to drive even a passenger vehicle. The risk is much worse when a trucker is taking certain medications and driving an 80,000-pound truck. Unfortunately, the use of these medications not only risks the life of the truck driver, but also the occupants in other vehicles that are on the road. However, if you are the victim of one these crashes, you may be able to hold the truck driver and trucking company responsible for compensating you for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
How Do Medications Affect a Trucker’s Driving Ability?
Many common medications and over-the-counter drugs that people—including truck drivers—take regularly come with warnings about driving when taking them. Sometimes truckers use these medications or stimulants to help them stay awake and alert. Sadly, they can suffer the opposite effect. Some legal drugs that can cause trucker driving impairment include:
- Antidepressant medications
- Medications to prevent seizures
- Antihistamines and decongestants
- Sleep-aid medications
- Medications to reduce anxiety
- Narcotic analgesics
- Diet pills and some natural weight loss supplements
- Energy drinks
- High-blood pressure medications
- Drugs to reduce cholesterol
- Drugs containing codeine
- Medicines containing Naproxen
The risk of side effects that can impair a trucker’s driving abilities can be even worse if the trucker is taking more than one medication or taking a drug in combination with an over-the-counter medication which can cause an allergic reaction or other complication. These legal medications can impair a truck driver’s driving ability in many ways including:
- Drowsiness. A common side effect of many of these drugs is drowsiness. Even stimulants taken to stay awake can have the opposite result when the effects of these products cause the trucker to crash. If severe enough, drowsiness can have the same effects on a trucker’s driving abilities as if his blood alcohol content was 0.08 percent.
- Reduced decisions making abilities. Many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can make it more difficult for a person to think clearly and make decisions. Decisions that can include distracted driving.
- Problems with coordination. When a trucker is uncoordinated due to the side effects of a medication, he may be unable to quickly respond to a traffic condition, such as other drivers stopping suddenly, an accident, or weather conditions.
- Anxiety. If a drug causes a truck driver to be anxious, he can make poor driving decisions based on his anxieties instead of the realities of the road.
- Dizziness. Becoming dizzy is a common side effect of many drugs and over-the-counter medications. It is beyond obvious that a dizzy truck driver is not a safe driver.
- Slower reaction times. A trucker can have slower reaction times when taking certain drugs, especially if he is experiencing a side effect such as drowsiness or lack of coordination. This can increase the likelihood he will cause an accident significantly.
When Do Medications Disqualify a Trucker From Driving?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has regulations on when a trucker can be disqualified from driving a truck due to the medications he is taking. These rules include:
- A trucker is prohibited from taking a controlled substance or prescription drug unless it is prescribed by a licensed practitioner.
- If a trucker is taking certain drugs, such as opiates, opium derivatives, depressants, stimulants, amphetamines, a narcotic, or any other habit forming drug, he is disqualified from driving.
- A trucker could fall into an exception from being disqualified if his doctor writes a statement that he can safely drive a truck and a medical examiner appointed to make this decision certifies it.
- Any anti-seizure medication taken to prevent seizures is a disqualifying drug.
- Methadone use will also disqualify a trucker from driving a commercial truck.
You would definitely need the assistance of an experienced truck accident attorney to prove that prescription or over-the counter drugs caused or contributed to your crash. If you or a family member were injured in one of these wrecks, call Brauns Law at (404) 998-5252 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.