Top Three Kinds Of Driver Impairment

Top Three Kinds Of Driver Impairment

Statistically, impaired drivers cause about half of the fatal car crashes in California. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of these wrecks is that, in many cases, they need never have happened. Most impaired motorists know they should not drive, but they get behind the wheel anyway. This choice often has tragic consequences for innocent victims.

Because impaired drivers knowingly put other people at risk, a San Jose car accident attorney is usually able to obtain substantial damages in these cases. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drugs are, by far, the leading cause of impaired drivers. Substances like marijuana, alcohol, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter sleep aids are normally legal to take. However, it is often illegal, and always dangerous, to drive under their influence.

If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated the DUI law, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law, because of the negligence per se doctrine. This rule applies if:

  • The tortfeasor violated a safety law, like the DUI law, and
  • That violation substantially caused injury.

In California, people are intoxicated if they completely lose control of their mental and physical faculties. They usually reach this point after three or four drinks, joints, or whatever. However, driver impairment usually begins with the first drink, puff, or pill. Circumstantial evidence of substance impairment includes:

  • Erratic driving before the wreck,
  • Open containers of alcohol or pills in the vehicle,
  • Physical effects, like an odor of alcohol or marijuana,
  • Glassy eyes, bloodshot eyes, and other physical symptoms, and
  • Current medical prescriptions.

The tortfeasor’s statements about substance use are typically admissible too. Sometimes, these statements make their way into the police accident report. Other times, an attorney can use an exception to the hearsay rule and get them admitted over the insurance company’s objections.

The burden of proof in a civil case is only a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. That’s the lowest burden of proof in California.


Medically, drowsiness has roughly the same effect on the body and brain as alcohol. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .08 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit in California.

Drowsiness and substances both affect motor skills and concentration ability. These drivers are unable to react in rapidly changing environments, like a busy street or highway. Additionally, these drivers are unable to multitask behind the wheel. They cannot do things like look straight ahead, keep an eye on their gauges, and check their mirrors at the same time.

These two conditions have something else in common. There’s no quick fix for either one. Only time cures substance impairment, and only sleep cures drowsiness.


Multitasking while driving is, in itself, a form of impairment. It’s obviously not possible to have one’s eyes on the road for every moment of every trip. The danger arises when additional distractions, like device use or eating a sandwich, come into play.

California lawmakers recently approved a hands-free cell phone law. So, the aforementioned negligence per se shortcut often applies in these situations.

If a hands-free phone or other such gadget distracted the tortfeasor, the ordinary negligence doctrine could apply. This doctrine could also apply in non-device distraction cases, such as the aforementioned eating while driving. Evidence of distraction includes device use logs, erratic operation, and the tortfeasor’s statements about distraction.

Contact a Savvy Attorney

Impaired motorists often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Jose, contact Solution Now Law Firm. You have a limited amount of time to act.


Solution Now Law Firm

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