In 2012 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 472 vehicles were involved in fatal truck crashes in New Mexico. This doesn’t account for the number of people who suffered personal injuries due to truck accidents.
Truck accidents often have tragic consequences for victims and families. Because of the size and heavy loads that these vehicles carry, victims involved in truck accidents are more likely to suffer more serious injuries, face long-term disability, require more long-term rehabilitation, and may be more likely to miss time at work. The pain and suffering experienced by victims and loved ones is also likewise immense. For individuals who have experienced a personal injury or wrongful death due to the negligent actions of a truck driver, seeking an experienced personal injury lawyer such as the Law Office of Brian K Branch is an important first step to ensure that justice is served.
Truck drivers and companies are required to be in compliance with a host of Federal truck regulations. Failure to abide by these laws often results in truck accidents. While driver fatigue, speeding, and drug use are often cited as contributing factors in truck accidents, driver health is another important factor that is often overlooked.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, individuals are not allowed to operate commercial vehicles unless they have been medically approved to do so. Drivers are required to carry a current copy of a medical examiner’s certificate showing that they have passed all required medical tests. Unfortunately, drivers who claim to hold these cards or who show these cards as proof of having passed medical examiner’s tests cannot always be assumed to be in good health. Last year KOAT Albuquerque reported that hundreds of forged medical cards were sold to commercial drivers. 609 of these cards were sold, meaning that hundreds of drivers were on the road who may not have passed Federally required medical examinations. When the investigative reporter for KOAT looked into the issue, over 300 drivers holding invalid cards remained at large.
Current law states that individuals are qualified to drive commercial vehicles only if a person has no physical impairment that would limit the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. The impairments that could disqualify a driver range from amputation to grasping difficulties. Additionally, drivers must not be diagnosed with diabetes, a heart condition, respiratory dysfunction, or epilepsy. Drivers must also have no record of psychological disorders that could potentially interfere with a driver’s ability to operate a truck or commercial vehicle. Finally, drivers must have sound visual acuity and hearing, and must have no history or drug use or alcoholism.
These medical restrictions are in place to keep the public safe. If a commercial driver can’t see well, has a history of alcohol use, or has a condition that could potentially incapacitate him or her while he or she is behind the wheel, the driver should not be operating a commercial vehicle. Additionally, many of the medications that are required to treat some of these prohibitive conditions could potentially interfere with a driver’s ability to operate a truck or commercial vehicle. It has been found that even over-the-counter drugs can affect a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. While certain medications aren’t listed as restricting a driver’s ability to operate a commercial vehicle, use of these drugs could potentially put other drivers at risk, and could result in a driver’s liability should an accident occur.
Medical examiners have also been critiqued for applying inconsistent practices in diagnosing respiratory conditions, like sleep apnea in truck drivers. Doctors are required to identify conditions that fall under Federal regulation. However, the Federal government also issues guidelines which are not considered law. Some medical examiners will not consider sleep apnea a respiratory condition which could interfere with a driver’s ability to operate a truck, while some examiners will not pass a driver with this condition. Because of these inconsistencies, victims of truck accidents where a driver passed a medical examination may not always be aware of all the medical issues a driver has.
Sleep apnea can result in fatigue and also can pose a dangerous risk to other drivers on the road.
Victims of truck accidents face a range of challenges. A truck accident lawyer like Brian Branch who understands the intricacies of driver’s medical requirements can review all details of a truck driver’s history in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and determine whether the truck driver was fit to drive. Visit The Law Office of Brian K Branch at www.bkblaw.net to schedule a free consultation.