The results of the investigation into a deadly Oklahoma truck crash help call attention to the growing problem of synthetic drug use among truckers.
The National Transportation Safety Board recently completed an investigation into the Oklahoma truck crash that claimed the lives of four college athletes in 2014. According to Bloomberg, the organization concluded that synthetic drug use was likely to blame for this fatal truck crash. The truck driver reportedly had a history of taking synthetic cannabinoids, and these drugs are thought to be responsible for his incapacitation during the tragic accident.
Troublingly, incidents like these are not as isolated as people in Ponca City might like to believe. In fact, the NTSB investigation identified the use of synthetic drugs by truckers as a growing threat to public safety.
Dangerous, Undetected Drugs
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, several industry regulations seek to prevent truckers from driving while impaired. Drivers must undergo drug and alcohol testing prior to hiring, after accidents and at random. Supervisors may also order drug or alcohol testing if they believe drivers are impaired. Drivers who refuse or fail these tests are removed from service until they complete the FMCSA's return-to-duty procedures.
Unfortunately, these tests are not always successful at detecting the presence of synthetic drugs. Traditional drug tests may not reveal many of the compounds that comprise synthetic drugs. Additionally, novel synthetic substances can be produced and made publicly available so frequently that laws and drug tests cannot keep up with these new substances.
Sadly, when truckers use these drugs, the consequences for other drivers can be devastating. During the Oklahoma accident, the semi driver reportedly crossed a median and struck a bus, fatally injuring four passengers. He then drove off the wood and into the woods, unaware that the accident had occurred. He reportedly covered over 1,400 feet in 11 seconds without even realizing that he had departed the road.
Outlook for Drivers in Oklahoma
Citing the growing issue of synthetic drug use, the NTSB is calling for stricter regulations regarding trucker drug testing. The organization has also recommended giving truckers more information about the risks of synthetic drugs and conducting further research into the prevalence of synthetic drug use. Unfortunately, until such measures are implemented, the risk of related accidents may be significant.
The number of injurious or deadly truck accidents that involve synthetic drug use in Oklahoma each year isn't known. However, the FMCSA's large-scale Large Truck Crash Causation Study, which surveyed over 141,000 accidents, found that over-the-counter and illegal drug use were factors in about 19 percent of those crashes. Here in Oklahoma, 5,155 large truck crashes occurred in 2014. If the FMCSA's reported accident rates are reliable, over 900 of these crashes may have involved drug use.
Legal remedies may be available to people who suffer injuries because truck drivers are impaired or otherwise unfit to drive. Although proving that a driver was under the influence of synthetic drugs may be difficult, there might be other ways to show that a truck driver was at fault in an accident. For further information, injury victims may benefit from consulting with a truck accident attorney.