What Are the 3 Main Types of Distracted Driving?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 3 main types of distraction are visual, manual, and cognitive. All of these types of distraction can apply behind the wheel:

  • Visual distraction occurs when you take your eyes off the road.
  • Manual distraction takes place when you take your hands off the wheel.
  • Cognitive distraction happens when you take your mind off the task of safe driving.

While there are many activities that distract drivers, safety advocates are most worried about texting and driving. That is because texting and driving combines all the main types of distraction. You have to take your eyes off the road to read a text message, take your hands off the wheel to hold your phone and/or respond, and your mind is on the task of texting the entire time.

The CDC explains:

At 55 miles per hour, sending or reading a text is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.”

Examples of Distracted Driving

Texting and driving has become the poster child for distracted driving, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers any activity that diverts attention from driving to be distracted driving.

Examples of distracted driving include:

  • Talking on the phone
  • Reading an email
  • Eating and drinking
  • Smoking
  • Grooming (applying makeup or using a comb)
  • Using a navigation system
  • Changing the air conditioning or temperature
  • Fiddling with the stereo or entertainment system
  • Adjusting the side or rearview mirrors
  • Wrangling children or pets
  • Chatting with passengers

Having a conversation with your passenger may be safer than sending a text message, but any non-driving activity you engage in can increase your risk of a car accident.

How to Prevent Visual, Mental, and Cognitive Distractions

Before you start driving, program your GPS, make sure your seat and mirrors are comfortable, choose a playlist or turn on the radio, and take care of your children and pets. If you think you might get hungry or thirsty on the road, eat a snack and drink some water. Set your phone to “do not disturb” mode or use an app that converts your phone into a tool for music and directions. Some phone companies will even respond to calls and texts with an automated message that says, “I’m driving right now,” so people trying to contact you will know it’s not a good time. You will still be able to call 911, and depending on your settings, important calls may still come through.

While you’re on the road, focus on driving and keep an eye on the vehicles in front of, behind, and to the sides of you. Make sure both hands are on the wheel at all times. Keep conversation light if you have passengers in the car and safely pull over if you need to answer a call, send a text, or complete any other activity that takes your attention off the road.

On longer drives, you can always take a coffee break, go for a walk, or switch drivers if you start to feel drowsy or your mind wanders. Avoid driving if you feel stressed, emotional, or haven’t gotten enough sleep -- and never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

What If the Other Driver Is Distracted?

If you notice a distracted driver, assume they have not noticed you. Give them a wide berth and put as much distance between yourself and the distracted driver as possible. If it is safe for you to do so, get far enough ahead of them that they are no longer a danger or slow down to give the distracted driver a substantial lead.

Texting while driving is illegal in most states, so you can also alert the police or call 911 to report the distracted driver.

Unfortunately, distracted drivers behave unpredictably, and someone could hit your vehicle before you get a chance to respond.

If this occurs, we encourage you to contact Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. for the legal help you deserve. Call us at (603) 288-1403 or send us a message online to put more than 140 years of combined legal experience on your side.

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