In 1995, the United States implemented mandatory alcohol testing programs for motor carriers. Commercial truck drivers with a blood-alcohol content of .04 or higher are subject to immediate suspension.

To date, the program had not been adequately evaluated, according to J.E. Brady and colleagues at Columbia University, who recently completed a study regarding this practice. In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers found that mandatory alcohol testing may have contributed to a significant reduction in alcohol involvement in fatal trucking accidents.

The scientists used data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from the period between 1982 and 2006, consisting of nearly 70,000 semi drivers and more than 80,000 other drivers. Of the more than 66,000 fatal crashes involving more than one vehicle, 2.7 percent of the truckers had positive blood-alcohol concentrations, compared to 19.4 percent of other drivers.

Adjusting for the age, sex, history of alcohol-related driving offenses, and survival status, mandatory testing was found to be associated with a 23 percent reduction in risk of alcohol involvement in fatal crashes by truck drivers.

Dr. Guohua Li of Columbia University says the total number of fatal crashes per mile of travel for motor carriers has also decreased significantly since 1995. According to Li, the prevalence of alcohol-related fatal crashes among commercial truck drivers is now comparable to commercial pilots.

In comparison to these low rates across the U.S., neither Canada nor Mexico subject commercial drivers to mandatory testing. Li notes that in both nations, fatal crashes involving commercial drivers appear “much more likely to involve alcohol.” The study concludes that the findings offer compelling evidence of the efficacy of the mandatory alcohol testing for truckers.

Drivers or passengers who have been injured in a truck accident should contact a personal injury attorney to determine whether alcohol or negligence contributed to the crash and to discuss any claim for damages that may exist.