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The Five Kinds of Driving Impairment

The Five Kinds of Driving Impairment

Most car crashes are not “accidents.” Driver error causes over 90% of these incidents. Frequently, that error involves one of the five kinds of driving impairment, as listed below. Legally, driver impairment usually involves ordinary negligence, which is a lack of care, or negligence per se, which is a violation of a safety law.

An Indianapolis personal injury lawyer can use either of these theories to obtain compensation 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

Many Hoosiers deal with heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, and other chronic health problems which could cause a sudden loss of consciousness. If people pass out while they are driving, the result is usually a devastating loss-of-control crash.

Driving with a dangerous medical condition arguably violates the duty of reasonable care. This duty requires drivers to be physically fit and capable of safely operating a motor vehicle under any conditions.

Additionally, in many cases, the state suspends drivers’ licenses in these situations. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) operated a motor vehicle with an invalid license, the tortfeasor might be incompetent as a matter of law.

Drug Impairment

Marijuana is the most common impairing drug among drivers in Marion County. Prescription pain pills, such as Vicodin, are not too far behind. It might be legal to take these drugs in certain situations. But it is illegal and dangerous to drive under the influence of these drugs.

To establish a violation of the duty of care, victims/plaintiffs can use circumstantial evidence, such as current prescriptions, open pill bottles in the car, marijuana in the car, odor of marijuana, and physical symptoms, such as glassy eyes.

As mentioned, drugged driving is against the law in Indiana. In fact, the Hoosier State has one of the most comprehensive DUI-Drug laws in the county. Tortfeasors who violate this law and cause crashes are generally responsible for damages as a matter of law.


Hand-held cell phones get most of the attention in this area. That is because these gadgets combine all three forms of distracted driving, which are:

  • Visual (taking one’s eyes off the road),
  • Cognitive (taking one’s mind off driving), and
  • Manual (taking one’s hand off the wheel).

Other forms of distracted driving include using a hands-free cell phone and eating while driving. These behaviors are almost as dangerous as using a hand-held phone while driving.

Indiana’s hands-free law prohibits most hand-held cell phone use in Marion County. So, the negligence per se doctrine usually applies in such situations. Otherwise, victims/plaintiffs must use circumstantial evidence to establish a lack of care.


Drunk drivers cause about a third of the fatal car crashes in Indiana. Alcohol slows motor skills and clouds judgment abilities.

Tortfeasors who violate the DUI law and cause car crashes might automatically be liable for damages. Victim/plaintiffs need only prove cause.

Many drivers are impaired but not legally intoxicated. Unlike intoxication, impairment begins with the first drink. Circumstantial evidence of alcohol impairment includes physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes, and statements the tortfeasor made to emergency responders or other witnesses.


Drowsiness and alcohol have a lot in common. In terms of effects on the body and brain, driving after 18 consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. Additionally, there are no shortcuts in either area. Only time cures alcohol impairment, and only sleep cures drowsiness.

Since it is not against the law to drive while fatigued, at least for noncommercial drivers, victim/plaintiffs must always use circumstantial evidence to establish a lack of care. Such evidence includes the time of day or night, erratic driving, and the tortfeasor’s sleep schedule.

Rely on Experienced Lawyers

Impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. Contact an experienced Indianapolis personal injury attorney at Holland & Holland today. 

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