The Five Types of Driving Impairment

During coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, many Georgia motorists developed some bad driving habits, including speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and driving while impaired. Before the pandemic, operator impairment accounted for about half of the fatal car crashes in the Peachtree State. There is no telling how high the proportion is now. Impaired driving crashes are usually not “accidents.” People accidentally lose their car keys. They do not accidentally drive drunk and cause wrecks.

So, a Marietta personal injury attorney can usually obtain substantial compensation following an impaired driver wreck. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Generally, these cases do not go to trial. Instead, lawyers are usually able to resolve them out of court and on victim-friendly terms.


This widely-available and dangerous substance causes almost a third of the fatal car wrecks in Cobb County. Alcohol dulls the senses in several ways, making it very hazardous to operate a motor vehicle or other heavy machinery.

Attorneys may use direct or circumstantial evidence to establish liability (responsibility) for the aforementioned damages. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who are charged with DUI or a similar offense could be liable for car crash damages as a matter of law. If the operator was impaired but not legally intoxicated, circumstantial evidence is usually available. This evidence includes:

  • Erratic driving before the wreck,
  • Physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes and slurred speech,
  • Tortfeasor’s statements to emergency responders or witnesses about alcohol consumption, and
  • Whether the tortfeasor had recently been at a bar, restaurant, or other commercial alcohol provider.

The burden of proof in a civil claim is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, it does not take much evidence to establish a very strong injury claim.


Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. Most people are unaware of the dangers of fatigued driving. Medically, drowsiness and alcohol affect the body and brain in roughly the same way. As a matter of fact, driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level.

Circadian rhythm fatigue could be an issue as well. Most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning, late at night, and at certain other times of day, no matter how much rest they had the previous night.

Drowsy driving is not against the law. Therefore, attorneys must use circumstantial evidence to establish ordinary negligence, or a lack of care. Such evidence includes erratic pre-crash driving, the time of day or night, and the tortfeasor’s sleep patterns.

Medical Condition

Prior to the coronavirus era, this category almost exclusively covered serious chronic medical conditions which could cause a sudden and unexpected loss of consciousness, such as:

  • Diabetes,
  • Heart disease, and
  • Epilepsy.

Today, this category is somewhat broader. It also includes driving while sick with the flu, mild COVID-19, or another such illness. Symptoms like watery eyes, muscle aches, and respiratory problems significantly impair most drivers.


Street drugs, like marijuana and heroin, are not the only problem in this area. Most prescription pain pills, like Vicodin and Oxycontin, are even stronger than heroin. Additionally, many over-the-counter drugs, like Sominex and NyQuill, have significant and long-lasting impairing effects.

Liability for a drug-related wreck is similar to liability for an alcohol-related wreck. Either the negligence per se doctrine, which usually involves a DUI-drugs arrest, or the ordinary negligence doctrine is available.


This final driver impairment is not like the others. Distracted drivers are usually capable of safely operating a motor vehicle. But once they get behind the wheel, they use a device or engage in other behavior, like eating while driving, that is distracting:

  • Cognitively (mind off driving),
  • Visually (eyes off the road), and/or
  • Manually (hand off the wheel).

Georgia has a hands-free law. So, the negligence per se shortcut is available in some cell phone cases. But for the most part, victims must rely on the ordinary negligence doctrine in these situations.

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