The Five Types of Driving Impairment

by | Aug 17, 2022 | Injuries

For many safety advocates, driverless cars can’t come soon enough. Driver error causes over 98 percent of the vehicle collisions in the United States. Aggressive driving, such as running a red light, tailgating, and especially speeding, causes many of these wrecks. One of the five types of driver impairment, which are outlined below, causes the rest of them.

Frequently, a Lexington personal injury attorney can obtain considerable compensation in impaired driver claims. Arguably, these drivers know that they cannot safely operate a motor vehicle. However, mostly for convenience reasons, they get behind the wheel anyway, and thereby intentionally put other people at risk.

Medical Condition

Mild or moderate diseases, from colds and allergies to COVID-19 and monkeypox, significantly impair motor skills and judgment ability. Symptoms like coughing and sneezing slow reaction times, and these conditions also cloud the senses.

Sometimes, the medicines these people take do more harm than good, at least in terms of their ability to drive safely. More on that below.

Serious medical conditions are like the sword of Damocles. People with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, epilepsy, and diabetes, could suddenly and unexpectedly lose consciousness behind the wheel. 

The state of Kentucky suspends drivers’ licenses in these situations. However, a suspended license doesn’t prevent anyone from getting behind the wheel. Additionally, these suspensions usually last a maximum of 180 days. These conditions last a lot longer than six months.

Alcohol

To reduce the number of alcohol-related wrecks, lawmakers have repeatedly passed tougher laws. These laws haven’t had much of an effect. Alcohol still causes about as many wrecks today as before these legal changes took effect.

Like most other kinds of impairment, alcohol-related wrecks could involve the negligence per se doctrine or the ordinary negligence doctrine.

Negligence per se is a violation of a safety law. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who break safety laws, like the DUI law, and cause crashes could be responsible for damages as a matter of law. Usually, additional evidence is only important in the damages phase of a negligence per se trial.

Many people aren’t legally intoxicated but they are dangerously impaired. Impairment, unlike intoxication, begins with the first drink. Circumstantial evidence of alcohol impairment includes:

  • Erratic driving before the wreck,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Open container of alcohol in the passenger area,
  • Slurred speech,
  • Odor of alcohol, and
  • Statements about alcohol use.

Alcohol-related wrecks could also involve third party liability. Commercial providers could be vicariously liable for damages if they sell alcohol to intoxicated customers who cause crashes.

Drugs

Almost half of the drivers who cause fatal crashes are under the influence of drugs. Marijuana is the leading culprit, followed by prescription medicine, like Xanax and Oxycontin, and over-the-counter drugs, like Nyquill and Sominex.

These drugs might be legal, or at least quasi-legal, to take. However, it’s always dangerous to drive under their influence. Significantly, in civil court, this influence could be due to a side-effect or abuse of the medication.

The ordinary negligence and negligence per se principles discussed above apply in drugged driving cases as well. Evidence in stoned driving cases is similar as well. In addition to the proof mentioned above, other evidence includes recent medication or drug purchases and current prescriptions for certain drugs. Vicarious liability could apply as well. For example, many doctors write prescriptions without asking questions.

Fatigue

Lack of sleep and alcohol use affect the brain and body in about the same way. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. Both alcohol and fatigue impair motor skills and cloud judgment abilities. 

Drowsiness and alcohol impairment/intoxication have something else in common. Only time cures alcohol intoxication or impairment, and only sleep addresses fatigue. Drinking coffee, blaring the radio, and other shortcuts don’t effectively combat fatigue. They just help people feel a little more alert for a few minutes.

Usually, fatigued driving isn’t against the law. So, unlike the other forms of impaired driving, the ordinary negligence doctrine is usually the only available doctrine in this area. 

Distraction

Hand-held phones are one of the leading causes, and one of the most serious causes, of distracted driving. These gadgets cause drivers to take their minds off driving, their hands off the wheel, and their eyes off the road. That’s all three kinds of distracted driving (cognitive, manual, and visual).

Kentucky law only bans texting and driving. Most people use their phones for a lot more than texting. Therefore, the negligence per se rule only applies in a few situations.

Additionally, the law doesn’t apply to hands-free devices. Contrary to popular myth, hands-free doesn’t mean risk-free. In fact, according to multiple studies, driving while using a hands-free device is the functional equivalent of driving drunk.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.