The Five Types of Impaired Driving

The Five Types of Impaired Driving

Governments, insurance companies, hospitals, and other entities are under increasing pressure to eliminate the “car accident” phrase and replace it with “car crash.” After all, advocates point out, trains wreck, ships sink, and airplanes crash. So, it makes no sense for cars to have accidents. Furthermore, these people contend, “accident” involves an inevitable and unpreventable occurrence. Typically, that is not the case in car crashes.

In these incidents, one driver or the other is almost always “at fault.” Many times, this fault involves negligence, which is basically a lack of ordinary care. The five types of impaired driving, as outlined below, are all good examples of negligence.

Damages in a car crash claim usually include compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may also be available, in some cases.

Alcohol

Beginning around 1995, Illinois law enforcement agencies began cracking down on “drunk drivers”. Lawmakers have strongly supported this initiative. Yet 20 years later, alcohol still causes almost a third of the fatal car crashes in Chicago.

This widely-available substance is a depressant that slows down motor skills and physical reaction times. Alcohol is also a mood-altering substance that replaces good judgment with a sense of euphoria. This combination makes it very dangerous to drink and drive.

In car crash cases, victim/plaintiffs may use either direct or circumstantial evidence to establish alcohol impairment. A DUI arrest is direct evidence of impairment. Circumstantial evidence includes items like:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Odor of alcohol,
  • Unsteady balance,
  • Bloodshot eyes, and
  • Statements which the tortfeasor (negligent driver) made to witnesses or emergency responders.

The victim/plaintiff must establish impairment by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Unlike alcohol intoxication, alcohol impairment begins with the first drink.

Drowsiness

Fatigue and alcohol have basically the same effect on the human brain, viz, slower motor skills and impaired judgment. In fact, driving after 18 hours without sleep is like driving with a .08 BAC level.

A majority of drivers admit that they have operated vehicles while dangerously fatigued. Some of them even admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel. Drowsy driving is especially a problem in large vehicle crash cases. For example, many tour bus operators drive early in the morning or late at night. Most people are naturally sleepy at these times, no matter how much rest they had the night before.

As there is no BAC test for drowsiness, establishing fatigue is a little more difficult than establishing alcohol impairment. However, the burden of proof is still a preponderance of the evidence. So, any facts which may point to fatigue are usually sufficient.

Drugs

Circumstantial evidence, such as glassy eyes, erratic driving, or open medicine containers, may also establish drugged driving. In some jurisdictions, drug impairment is more common than alcohol impairment. There are basically three types of substances:

  • Cocaine, LSD, and other street drugs,
  • Oxycontin, Vicodin, and other prescription pain relievers, and
  • Sudafed, NyQuil, and other over-the-counter medicines.

The jury is still out when it comes to marijuana use and driving impairment. Some studies indicate that marijuana inhibits driving skills; other studies suggest that this substance may have the opposite effect.

Distraction

Although cell phones are obviously not an ingestible substance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration places distraction alongside the other forms of impaired driving. Using cell phones, eating while driving, talking to passengers, and other non-driving activities all have basically the same effect on the brain as alcohol or fatigue.

An attorney can usually download a tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) call history or browsing history to establish distraction.

Medical Condition

Many people suffer from heart disease, diabetes, or other conditions which could cause a sudden loss of consciousness. Many times, this unconsciousness comes without any prior warning. Medical records may establish this area of negligence. Moreover, Illinois usually suspends the drivers’ licenses of people with medical conditions that may affect their driving ability.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Chicago, contact Michael T. Friedman & Associates, P.C. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

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