The Five Types of Driver Impairment in Kentucky

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2020 | Car Accidents

Vehicle collisions kill or seriously injure millions of Americans every year. Typically, these incidents are not accidents. The A-word implies the incident was unavoidable and inevitable. That’s usually not true of car wrecks in Kentucky. Instead, some form of driver error usually causes these crashes. The five most common types of driver impairment are outlined below.

If the other driver was negligent, a Lexington car crash lawyer might be able to obtain substantial compensation for the victim. This compensation typically includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme cases.

Medical Condition

Epilepsy, heart disease, diabetes, and a number of other chronic conditions could cause a sudden and unexpected loss of consciousness. If that loss happens while the person is behind the wheel, the result could be a dangerous loss-of-control collision. 

Generally, the state suspends drivers’ licenses in these situations. But these suspensions are usually only temporary, while the health conditions are generally permanent. So, whether or not a person with a serious medical condition had a valid license, the driver was arguably negligent.


Many people would never think about driving after consuming two or three drinks, but they have no problem driving while they are fatigued. Yet alcohol and fatigue affect the body and brain in roughly the same way. Driving after eighteen consecutive hours without sleep is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial drivers in Kentucky.

Much like alcohol, fatigue clouds judgment ability and impairs motor skills. These effects are worse if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) recently changed work schedules. 

Sometimes, the amount of sleep is irrelevant. Most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night, regardless of how much rest they had the night before. Once again, circadian rhythm fatigue is worse if the tortfeasor recently altered his/her daily schedule.


Despite a decades-long crackdown against “drunk drivers,” alcohol still causes about a third of the fatal car wrecks in Kentucky. Like many other kinds of driving impairment, alcohol-related crashes could involve the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule.

Ordinary negligence is a lack of care. Since the impairing effects of alcohol begin at one drink, many drivers are dangerously impaired but not legally intoxicated. Evidence of impairment includes:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Unsteady balance, and
  • Odor of alcohol.

Victim/plaintiffs need only establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little proof goes a long way.

If emergency responders cited the tortfeasor for DUI, the negligence per se doctrine usually applies. Drivers are presumptively liable for damages if:

  • They violate a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially causes injury.

Alcohol-related crashes might involve third party liability as well. Bars, restaurants, and other commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they knowingly serve intoxicated people.


Legal and illegal drugs are widely available in Fayette County. Statistically, marijuana and prescription pain pills are the most common causes of drug-related car wrecks. These substances might or might not be legal to consume. In any case, it is always dangerous, and usually illegal, to drive under the influence of these substances.

Much like alcohol-related crashes, drug-related crashes could involve the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule. In addition to physical symptoms, such as glassy eyes, other circumstantial evidence of drug use includes open medicine containers in the car, current prescriptions, and statements the tortfeasor made to witnesses or first responders.


Hand-held cell phones are not the only distracted driving issue by any means. In fact, hands-free devices might be more dangerous than hand-held gadgets. Hands-free devices are visually and cognitively distracting. Users take their eyes off the road and their minds off driving. Moreover, hands-free gadgets often give drivers a false sense of security. 

Kentucky has a limited hands-free law which bans sending or reviewing text-based communications while driving. However, it’s technically legal to use a cell phone to watch videos, take pictures, and do anything else while driving. So, this law does not always apply.

Other examples of distracted driving include talking to passengers, eating, drinking, and sightseeing while driving.

Impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Lexington, contact Goode Law Office, PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.