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Understanding the different types of distracted driving

Distracted driving is a serious issue that affects drivers all over the country. It’s an alarming problem that significantly contributes to accidents and fatalities on the road. These behaviors can be categorized into manual, visual and cognitive distractions.

Understanding these forms of distractions and being aware of them can make a significant difference in road safety. The risks associated with distracted driving are substantial, as even a mere five seconds of distraction while going 55 miles per hour means a car travels the length of a football field while being operated by a preoccupied driver.

Manual distractions involve taking hands off the steering wheel

Manual distractions occur when drivers remove one or both hands from the steering wheel for any reason. This type of distraction is common and includes actions like:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the radio, GPS, or climate controls
  • Using a cell phone to text, dial or browse

When hands are taken off the wheel, the driver’s control over the vehicle is even momentarily diminished. This compromises the ability to react quickly and safely to sudden changes or obstacles in the road.

Visual distractions divert the eyes away from the road

Visual distractions pull the driver’s eyes away from the road, focusing them elsewhere. Even brief lapses in visual attention can lead to catastrophic consequences. Some examples of visual distractions include:

  • Looking at a billboard or scenery
  • Reading a map or navigation device
  • Watching a video on a mobile device or in-car entertainment system

The dangerous truth is that taking the eyes off the road for a few seconds is akin to driving blindfolded for a short distance. This amplifies the risk of missing critical cues, signs or hazards that may suddenly appear on the road.

Cognitive distractions shift mental focus away from driving

Cognitive distractions might be the most insidious of the three because they take the driver’s mind off driving without necessarily removing hands from the wheel or eyes from the road. Examples of cognitive distractions include:

  • Engaging in deep conversation with passengers
  • Daydreaming or thinking about something other than driving
  • Stress or emotional distractions affect concentration

A mind not fully engaged in driving can lead to delayed reaction times and poor judgment, significantly increasing the risk of an accident.

Even safe drivers are at risk if others on the road are distracted. Injuries from these crashes can be significant, so victims will likely need emergency medical care. They may also opt to pursue a claim for compensation from the party liable for the wreck, depending on the nature of their unique circumstances.

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