Drunk-driving is listed with reckless driving, over-speeding and driver error as the top causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Car accidents in the U.S. have always numbered to more than five million annually, injuring more than two million and killing no less than 30,000 every year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the usual offenders of the law against drunk-driving, are adolescents; those aged between 17 and 24.
The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit set by the U.S. government is 0.08% (the limit is lower for commercial truck drivers and individuals below the age of 21). Offenders caught with a 0.08% or higher BAC level will be charged with drinking under the influence (DUI) or with the more serious offense, drinking while impaired/intoxicated (DWI) (some states, however, DUI and DWI interchangeably).
DUI or DWI is a serious crime. Penalties for the offense vary, depending on the severity of the offense and the number of times it has been committed. Under the law, the basic sentences for offenders include:
- 1 to 30 days imprisonment;
- $200 fine;
- revocation or suspension of driver’s license; and,
- installation of an Interlock Ignition Device (IID) in the vehicle of the offender. An IID is a device like the breath analyzer. It measures the level of BAC in the driver. If the BAC level detected by the IID is higher than its programmed limit (usually as low as 0.02%), it will automatically render the vehicle incapable of starting.
Drunk-driving accidents usually happen on weekends and on holidays. This is because, despite drinking, many simply refuse to believe that the alcohol they consumed will impair them. People will have to realize that BAC reading is based on the level of alcohol that is detectable in their blood, despite them still being sober.
According to the firm Horst Law, “Even a single DUI conviction could change your life. For starters, your license will be revoked for a full year after your conviction, at which time you will have to work through the complex process of getting your license reinstated. Until it is eventually reinstated, you will have to figure out a way to get to and from work, assuming that you do not lose your job. By the time everything is said and done, the state estimates that the overall cost of a first-offense DUI could be just under $5,000. Aside from the long-term consequences that a conviction is likely to have on both your livelihood and lifestyle, you will have to serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 48 hours in jail.” Thus, if charged, a really good criminal defense attorney can be your best ticket to an acquittal.
Whenever there are truck accidents, the blame often goes to the driver for their negligence. While it may be clear that the collision may be their fault, this may not be the case all the time. There are other factors that may have contributed to the accident and one of them is employer negligence. In this article, we will discuss company liability in a truck accident.
According to the website of Spiros Champaign Law Firm, employers have the duty to ensure that their trucks should be regularly maintained and properly operated to reach their destinations safely. The liability of an employer is governed by the “respondeat superior” rule. Under this principle, the employer is responsible for the negligent acts of a truck driver if such were unintentional and were committed within the scope of their employment. For example, if the driver decided to stop by to watch a movie while on his way to their destination and gets into an accident, they will be liable for the accident. He still had a duty to perform.
The liability of an employer will also depend on whether or not the truck driver is their employee or an independent contractor. So how will the court determine which is which? If the truck company controls the working hours, route, and provides benefits to the driver, then the driver is their employee. On the other hand, if the driver uses their own truck, pays for their own gas and oil, and shoulders their own liability insurance, then the driver is an independent contractor.
There is an exception to every rule and the same way to employer liability. If the truck driver is an employee of a trucking company and commit an intentional act, then the employer will not have any liability whatsoever. For example, if the driver intentionally slams their truck into another vehicle because the other driver is having an affair with their spouse, the company is then free from any liability.
While the law requires truck drivers and trucking companies to ensure that trucks are well maintained and properly operated (through disciplined driving), the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that many drivers are allowed to drive despite having bad driving records and warnings from their safety officers. Many truck drivers have also been found to be intoxicated with alcohol, which is one of the major causes of fatal truck accidents.
Worse than these is the means employed by many carriers. These re-register under a new name with the Department of Transportation, in order to evade penalties and liability for repeated violation of federal safety rules.
Studies by the Department of Transportation have revealed the existence of so-called “chameleon carriers,” which simply change their names and corporate structure to be able to continue their operations. However, while avoiding legal responsibilities for their traffic violations, these “chameleon carriers” also continue and even become more dangerous on the road.
More than two million semi-trucks or big rigs operate on US roads and highways and, for years now, the NHTSA has continued to record about half a million accidents involving a number of these truck, which cause more than 100,00 injuries and at least 4,000 deaths.
Truck drivers who drive while intoxicated should never be excused from facing legal responsibility, but so are their employers, who allow them to continue driving despite their bad record. Removal of bad drivers from the road is strictly mandated by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 and violation of this Act should make employers much more responsible before the law than their drivers since this would be a case of obvious negligence and reckless behavior of choosing profit over public safety.
According to the Abel Law Firm website, no amount of money can ever undo the pains and suffering experienced by a victim of a truck accident. Severe injuries, much more the death of a loved one, simply because of someone’s act of negligence, merit the victim and/or his/her family the justice that he/she deserves and the full amount of compensation that the law may permit.