You may be surprised to learn that truck drivers – many whose rigs weigh several tons – are allowed to drive on prescription narcotics. The federal government is now taking a second look at this alarming practice.
Currently, truck drivers can get behind the wheel while taking drugs classified as Schedule II medications, as long as they’re prescribed by a physician who is aware of the driver’s condition. Schedule II medications include some opioid pain relievers and stimulants.
The obvious concern about this policy is, are truck drivers on medications more likely to crash?
A study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released in 2014 indicates that truck drivers using certain prescribed drugs can be dangerous. The authors found that the prescribed use of Schedule II opioids present at least a “moderate risk” for increasing a driver’s involvement in a fatal truck accident.
The study also concludes that highly addictive amphetamines, outside of those used to treat attention deficit disorder, “substantially increase” the chances for a truck driver getting into an accident.
Just as troubling is another study that outlines how easily doctors prescribe narcotics.
The study was published in Medical Care earlier this year. It included almost 200 primary care physicians who viewed videos with actors portraying doctors and patients who complained of back and leg pain known as sciatica. Half of the patients asked for oxycodone, while the remaining patients did not. The physicians viewing the videos were asked what they would do.
According to the physicians’ responses, 20 percent of the patients who simply asked for oxycodone would have received it. This despite the fact that the narcotic is not normally given for sciatica.
Unfortunately, any changes in federal rules will take years, so there probably won’t be any decrease in truck drivers on prescribed narcotics for some time.
Truck drivers tired from medication use or lack of sleep can cause catastrophic accidents, and they should be held responsible. If one of your family members was killed in a truck crash, you may want to consult an attorney who investigates trucking accidents.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.