HGVs In Road Traffic Accident Claims And Intoxication

In 2012, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) were involved in 6,305 road accidents, according to data from the Department for Transport. These led to 271 deaths, 1,077 serious injuries and 7,350 minor injuries, with 29 HGV drivers losing their lives in road accidents.

This means that HGVs were involved in 6% of the 1,754 fatal accidents on the UK’s roads, despite only representing around 5.4% of all traffic, and with these vehicles spending most of their time on relatively safe motorways and main roads. It is unsurprising that HGVs are seen in so many serious road traffic accident claims – the weight of the vehicles and the amount of power in them means collisions involving HGVs are significantly more likely to lead to devastating outcomes than those involving lighter vehicles.

We expect HGV drivers to reach exceptional road safety standards because of the increased risks their vehicles present on the road, and most HGV drivers reach these standards in every journey. Fatigue and overwork are commonly cited as the key factors in HGV accidents, but a recent systematic analysis of data recently published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine indicated other issues may also play a role.

Drug And Drink-Driving In HGVs

Researchers looked into 36 studies that analysed the use of mind-altering substances among truck drivers, 28 of which occurred in nations with a large land-mass and 23 of which were based on the results of surveys rather than biological evidence. This investigation revealed that the most common drugs used by truckers on the road were cocaine, cannabis, speed and alcohol. However, it was difficult for researchers to determine the exact frequency of drug-taking – rates of drunk-driving ranged from 0.1% to 91%, with this range between 0.2% and 82.5% for amphetamine use, 0.2% to 30% for cannabis use and 0.1% to 8% for cocaine use.

The scientists identified a range of factors that appear to be correlated with the use of drugs among HGV drivers. These were:

–          The age of the driver, with younger drivers more likely to take drugs

–          The income of the driver, with people on higher incomes more likely to take drugs

–          The length of trips, with longer trips associated with higher drug use

–          Driving at night

–          Levels of alcohol consumption

–          Whether or not the driver was properly rested, with fatigued drivers having higher rates of drug-taking

–          Whether pay is linked to productivity or is lower than those recommended by unions

It’s not just truck drivers who should be concerned about the findings of this study – personal injury solicitors know that all road users and the general public are at risk from intoxicated truck drivers. Furthermore, while cannabis and alcohol are well-known to reduce reaction times, prolonged use of amphetamines is also likely to lead to significant problems, with research linking this to an increased susceptibility to falling asleep and being responsible in road traffic accident claims.

Long working hours and fatigue were highlighted as some of the most important factors in drug taking among HGV drivers, but the researchers suggested that any culture change will be hard to enact.