Mandatory Alcohol Testing for Bus and Truck Drivers Reduces Fatal Crashes

Last month Science Daily reported on a new study from researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health which shows that mandatory alcohol testing programs for bus and truck drivers have contributed to a significant reduction alcohol-related fatal crashes.

The researchers examined nearly 70,000 heavy truck and bus drivers and over 83,000 car drivers. They found that mandatory alcohol testing programs for bus and truck drivers reduce the risk of alcohol involvement in fatal crashes by 23 percent. This is the first study to evaluate the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991, which made alcohol testing mandatory for transportation employees. The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and supported by the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health.

There are approximately 4,000 fatal accidents involving large trucks and buses in the United States each year. Almost 80 percent of the fatal crashes occur between a motor carrier (bus or truck) and a passenger vehicle.

Past research shows that about 3 percent of motor carrier drivers in fatal crashes are under the influence of alcohol, while about 27 percent of passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes are driving under the influence. The rate of DUI for motor carrier drivers is already relatively low, but mandatory alcohol testing reduces the risk of fatal accidents even further.

"The mandatory alcohol testing programs for transportation employees with safety-sensitive functions are a major policy intervention," said Guohua Li, senior author and professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and professor of Anesthesiological Sciences at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. "However, this policy remains a controversial one, because of legal and ethical concerns and little empirical data about its safety benefit. Our study provides compelling evidence that implementation of the mandatory alcohol testing programs has significantly reduced alcohol involvement in fatal motor carrier crashes."

The researchers also found that mandatory alcohol testing produces the same results regardless of sex or age. Further, mandatory alcohol testing decreases alcohol-related fatal crashes during daytime and nighttime to a similar degree.

Safety issues have hindered free cross-border trade by motor carriers. In the United States, mandatory drug and alcohol testing is required for motor carrier drivers; however, Canada and Mexico do not require testing.

Lead author Joanne Brady of the Mailman School of Public Health said, "Results from this new study suggest that implementation of the mandatory alcohol testing programs in the U.S. has substantially reduced alcohol-impaired driving by motor carrier drivers and that Canada and Mexico may improve their safety records by adopting this policy."

If you’ve been injured in a bus wreck or truck wreck, you need an experienced Georgia truck wreck lawyer who understands the federal motor carrier safety regulations that apply to large trucks and buses. If you have any questions about your legal rights, call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.