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The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Your trusted legal advisors since 1976

The Five Types of Driving Impairment


Here in Tampa, driver error causes over 90 percent of car crashes. These crashes usually cause some kind of injury, many of them serious and life-changing. Tragically, some of these victims do not survive.

The vast majority of these cases are not unavoidable “accidents.” Instead, some form of negligence usually causes the collision. That negligence could be a lack of ordinary care or a violation of a specific safety law, like the DUI law.

A Tampa car accident attorney may be able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases, especially if one of the five types of driving impairment caused the wreck.


Since it undermines both motor and judgement skills, alcohol causes about a third of the fatal car crashes in Tampa.

As mentioned, if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was legally intoxicated, the tortfeasor may be liable for car crash damages as a matter of law.

Most people must consume at least two or three drinks to feel a buzz. But “impairment” begins with the first drink. In these cases, victim/plaintiffs may use circumstantial evidence to establish alcohol impairment. Such evidence includes:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Odor of alcohol, and
  • Slurred speech.

In court, victim/plaintiffs must establish alcohol impairment and all other facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof under Florida law.


Alcohol and fatigue affect the brain in about the same way. They both impair motor skills and judgement ability. In fact, driving after eighteen hours without sleep is like driving with a .05 BAC level.

Fatigue and alcohol have something else in common. Just like there is no quick cure for intoxication, there is no quick fix for drowsiness. Old tricks, like drinking coffee and rolling down the window, usually do not work, at least not for very long.


In many jurisdictions, there are often “drugged” drivers just like “drunk” drivers. The responsible substance which impairs the driver could be any one of the following:

  • Cocaine, heroin, and other illegal street drugs,
  • Oxycontin, Vicodin, and other prescription painkillers, or
  • Benadryl, NyQuil, and certain other over-the-counter medicines.

Establishing drug-related impairment is a lot like establishing alcohol-related impairment. If the person is intoxicated, the tortfeasor may be liable for car crash damages as a matter of law. If the tortfeasor did not take enough drugs to be intoxicated but is nevertheless impaired, the aforementioned circumstantial evidence comes into play. Other circumstantial evidence includes open medicine bottles and the tortfeasor’s statements about drug use.


Hand-held cell phones get much of the attention in this area. They combine all three forms of distracted driving, which are:

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

Note that hands-free devices, which many people believe are safe, are visually and cognitively distracting. Additionally, such devices give some drivers a false sense of security. So, they may take more risks than they would otherwise.

Other kinds of distracted driving include eating while driving, talking to passengers while driving, and playing air guitar to classic rock while driving. Sometimes these acts constitute a lack of care, and sometimes they do not. Every case is fact specific.

Medical Condition

Thousands of Floridians suffer from chronic medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. These illnesses may lead to a sudden loss of consciousness. If that happens, the tortfeasor often causes a dangerous out-of-control collision.

Additional punitive damages can be available in these cases depending on the facts. These drivers know they should not drive, but they get behind the wheel anyway and therefore put other people at risk.

Contact Tenacious Lawyers

Impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. After-hours visits are available.


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