The Five Types of Driving Impairment | House Law LLC

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The Five Types of Driving Impairment

Most car accidents are not “accidents” at all. In fact, some form of driver error causes over 90 percent of these incidents. This driver error usually involves some form of driving impairment, which is a lack of statutory or reasonable care.

Car crash victims often sustain serious injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, and an experienced Kansas City personal injury attorney can help you obtain substantial compensation when these injuries occur. Compensation for personal injuries in Missouri and Kansas generally includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

While many different categories of driving impairment exist, most can be boiled down to 5 general types: distracted driving, driving while under the influence of alcohol, driving while under the influence of drugs, driving while fatigued, and driving with a serious medical condition that impacts a person’s ability to drive.


Distracted driving is the only category of driving impairment that typically begins after the driver gets behind the wheel. But driver distraction has the same effect on the brain as alcohol, fatigue, and the other forms of driving impairment discussed below.

Handheld cellphones get most of the attention in terms of device distraction, and for good reason. Studies have actually demonstrated that a driver who is texting while driving actually impairs a driver’s ability more than driving while intoxicated. This is in part because cell phones commonly distract a driver in 3 different ways:

  1. Cognitive (using a phone takes a driver’s mind off of driving);
  2. Manual (using a phone takes a driver’s hand or hands off the wheel); and
  3. Visual (using a phone takes a driver’s eyes off the road).

Hands-free phones still pose a risk because they often still require some hand movement to activate, some visual component (for example, looking at the buttons in a car to answer or decline a call), and cognitive impairment when driving. Additionally, hands-free gadgets often provide drivers a false sense of security.


While lawmakers and law enforcement officers have spent years cracking down on “drunk” drivers, alcohol still causes about a third of the fatal crashes in Missouri.

Alcohol impairment begins with the first drink. So, to establish liability, a victim/plaintiff can rely on circumstantial evidence of impairment, like bloodshot eyes, or an odor of alcohol. Plaintiff’s carry the burden of proof in Missouri and Kansas, but the burden of proof in civil cases is lower than the burden of proof in criminal cases. Plaintiffs have the burden to prove that a certain fact is more likely than not (for example, it is more likely than not that a defendant driver was driving while intoxicated). The burden of proof to obtain punitive damages (which are generally awarded in drunk driving cases and texting while driving cases) is a bit higher—the plaintiff must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant driver was driving while intoxicated.

If the tortfeasor was convicted of a DUI, the drunk driver might be liable for damages as a matter of law, under negligence per se. If this doctrine applies, victim/plaintiffs normally need only prove causation and damages.


Unfortunately, there are often more “drugged” drivers than drunk drivers (think of the “opioid epidemic,” which has recently been featured on the news). The impairing substance could be any one of the following:

  • LSD, heroin, and other illegal street drugs;
  • Oxycontin, Percocet, and other opioid prescription painkillers; or even
  • NyQuill, Benadryl, and certain other over-the-counter medicines.

Establishing drug impairment is a lot like establishing alcohol impairment. Victims can use circumstantial evidence, like current prescriptions, or direct evidence, such as a DUI-drug impairment arrest.


Alcohol and drowsiness have roughly the same effect on the brain. In fact, driving after 18 consecutive sleepless hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. Both alcohol and fatigue impair motor skills and judgement ability.

These two conditions have something else in common as well. There is no quick fix in either area. Only time cures alcohol impairment, and only sleep cures fatigue. Shortcuts like drinking coffee or turning up the radio might make drivers feel more alert for a few minutes, but the effect is limited and short-lived.

Medical Condition

Thousands of people struggle with chronic health conditions which could cause a sudden loss of consciousness. Some examples include:

  • Heart disease,
  • Epilepsy, and
  • Diabetes.

If drivers seek medical attention for certain medical conditions, the law may require that the driver not drive for a certain period of time (often 6 months). The reporting requirements vary from state to state, and often the DMV may not be required to be notified of a person’s medical conditions.

Whether or not the person’s license is technically valid, it is dangerous for people with certain medical conditions to drive. Loss of consciousness while behind the wheel could cause a dangerous out-of-control collision.

Sadly, these negligent drivers may be aware of the risk, but they choose to ignore the danger to both themselves and to other people.

Contact a Professional, yet Aggressive Attorney

If you have been the victim of a car crash, and have been injured, you might be entitled to substantial compensation. If you have been injured due to another person’s negligence, contact Aaron M. House at 816-875-4260 today for a free consultation. There is no fee until we obtain a settlement or judgment on your behalf.

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