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DUI tractor trailer driver kills teen in WV

Most professional truck drivers follow the zero tolerance rules about drinking and drugs before driving a tractor trailer or other commercial vehicle. As a trucking safety trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, I see a lot of serious safety violations but seldom one involving DUI.

But a recent tragedy in West Virginia demonstrates why there is no tolerance for truck drivers operating an 80,000 pound, 18-wheeler semi tractor trailer truck when impaired by alcohol or drugs. Police there say Breazeale Norris was driving drunk when he hit a car on I-64 in December 2009. One 18-year-old boy died in the crash and three others were injured. Norris was charged with DUI causing death and leaving the scene of an accident.

About 37% of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations deals with alcohol and drug testing procedures.

49 C.F.R. § 392.5 absolutely prohibits use or possession of alcohol in operation of a commercial motor vehicle. “No driver shall . . . [u]se alcohol, . . . or be under the influence of alcohol, within 4 hours before going on duty or operating, or having physical control of, a commercial motor vehicle; or . . . [u]se alcohol, be under the influence of alcohol, or have any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol, while on duty, or operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle.” Any driver is violation of this is placed in “out of service status” for 24 hours.

It further provides that “No motor carrier shall require or permit a driver to . . . [v]iolate any provision [of this section or] [b]e on duty or operate a commercial motor vehicle if, by the driver’s general appearance or conduct or by other substantiating evidence, the driver appears to have used alcohol within the preceding 4 hours.”

49 C.F.R. § 391.15 provides that a driver is disqualified by driving a commercial vehicle with blood alcohol 0.04% or more, or under influence of drugs, or refusing to take drug or alcohol test.

Ken Shigley is a truck and bus safety trial attorney representing seriously injured people and families of people killed in tractor trailer, big rig, semi, intermodal container freight, log truck, cement truck, dump truck, log truck and bus accidents statewide in Georgia.

Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in interstate trucking collision cases, and in the past two years has spoken at national interstate trucking litigation seminars in Chicago (trucking insurance), New Orleans (trial tactics and side underride issues), St. Louis (punitive damages), San Francisco (dealing with insolvent trucking companies), Atlanta (trucking insurance, closing argument), Nashville (use of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations), and Amelia Island (overview of trucking litigation).

Mr. Shigley served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute and is a national board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group. He is currently Treasurer of the 41,000 member State Bar of Georgia, of which he will become President-Elect on 6/19/10 and President in on 6/4/11. This blog expresses only personal views of Mr. Shigley, and nothing in it should be construed as expressing any opinion on behalf of any organization of which Mr. Shigley is a member or officer.

A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). In addition to trucking litigation, he has broad experience in products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases.

This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.