The Five Types of Driving Impairment in Rockford

David Monteleone
Illinois Accident and Wrongful Death Lawyer

  Posted  |  Category : Auto Accident Attorney

Distracted DrivingHuman error causes over 90 percent of the car crashes in Northern Illinois. Sometimes, this error involves a driving mistake, like a failure to look both ways. Generally, these collisions are “fender-benders” that cause property damage but not serious injury.

However, many other vehicle collisions involve negligence. That could be a lack of ordinary care or a violation of a safety law, such as the DUI law. Most of these cases include one of the five types of impairment, as identified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Medical Condition

Many people suffer from epilepsy, diabetes, a heart condition, or other illnesses that could cause sudden and unexpected loss of consciousness. Medical episode crashes can involve both negligence and negligence per se.

As mentioned, negligence is a lack of ordinary care. People who know that they have these conditions should not drive. It really is that simple. If these drivers lose control of their vehicles and cause injury, compensation usually includes money for economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are sometimes available as well, because the ill tortfeasor (negligent driver) clearly ignored a known risk.

Negligence per se cases work a bit differently. The state usually suspends or revokes the drivers’ licenses of people with these conditions. Driving without a valid license could be conclusive evidence of negligence.


Hand-held cell phones are the most dangerous form of distracted driving. These devices combine all three forms of distraction, which are:

  • Cognitive (mind off driving),
  • Physical (one hand off the wheel), and
  • Visual (eyes off the road).

Hands-free cell phones may be even more dangerous than the hand-held kind. Hands-free devices are cognitively and visually distracting. Moreover, these gadgets give many drivers a false sense of security.

Many other things, such as eating or drinking while driving, may cause distraction as well. Compensation is available if the distraction was so bad that it amounted to a lack of ordinary care.


Although Rockford authorities have cracked down on “drunk drivers” since the 1990s, alcohol impairment still causes almost a third of the fatal crashes in Winnebago County. Alcohol is a depressant which impairs motor skills. Alcohol is also a mood-altering substance which impairs judgement.

Impairment is different from intoxication. In criminal court, prosecutors must establish intoxication, which is either a .08 BAC (usually three or four drinks) or a complete loss of physical and mental faculties. But in civil court, victim/plaintiffs must only prove impairment. Impairment starts with the first drink.


Alcohol and fatigue have basically the same effect on the brain. Driving with a .08 BAC is about the same as driving after eighteen hours without sleep.

There is no BAC breath test for fatigue. Evidence of drowsiness normally includes the driver’s previous activity and the time of day. Many drivers are naturally drowsy at certain times of day no matter how well-rested they are.


In many jurisdictions, “drugged driving” incidents outnumber drunk driving incidents. That’s usually because there are many different types of drugged driving. The problem can be:

  • Heroin, LSD, and other street drugs,
  • Oxycontin, Percocet, and other prescription painkillers, and
  • Sudafed, Unisom, and other over-the-counter drugs.

In Illinois, even drugs like caffeine may cause impairment for tort law purposes.

Contact Hard-Hitting Attorneys

Impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Our main office is conveniently located in downtown Rockford.