Distracted driving has become worse in recent years. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that of all fatal driving accidents in 2019, 8.7% of them were due to distracted driving (more than 3,100 overall). That was a stark increase from 2018, where there were 2,858 fatal crashes involving distracted driving reported.
While more tools are being created to prevent distracted driving, human nature still comes into play, and accidents can happen. To better understand the enormity of this issue, we need to explore the things most people just don’t know about distracted driving.
Types of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is much more than just looking at your cellphone or eating at the wheel. The CDC recognizes three distinct factors of distracted driving, and each type has a different pull on your focus and affects your ability to drive. But what are these three types of distracted driving?
Manual distractions describe any time you take your hands off the wheel, even if it’s just to take a sip of your drink or adjust the air.
Even if you feel safe having one hand off the steering wheel, that is not the safest method for driving. Drivers should always have two hands on the steering wheel and be focused on the road ahead and their surroundings.
Manual distractions are so common that drivers often don’t realize they’re distracted at all. Some of the more common manual distractions include:
- Eating food;
- Drinking a drink;
- Handing something to a passenger;
- Going through personal belongings; and,
- Changing temperature gauges or other knobs in a vehicle.
While these aren’t the only type of manual distractions, one fact is clear — taking one or both hands off the steering wheel can lead to severe consequences.
Visual distractions describe any instance where you take your eyes off the road, even if it’s just to look at a billboard. This is often accompanied by manual distractions because it can be difficult to manually grab something without looking.
Some common visual distractions include:
- GPS devices
- Other electronic devices
- Looking at billboard advertisements; and
- Looking in the vanity mirror in the car visor
- Making eye contact with a passenger
Even if a driver thinks they’ll only take their eyes off the road for a moment, that can be the difference between them having an accident or not.
For example, if you’re driving 60 miles per hour, you will travel the length of a football field in just three seconds. If you are caught up in a visual distraction, a vehicle in your blind spot could merge into your lane, and you could crash into them.
Cognitive distractions simply mean that your mental focus is not on the road. Have you ever been on an open road thinking about something else and then all of a sudden realize you need to focus because you’re driving? That’s a type of cognitive distraction.
Cognitive distractions are the most dangerous kind because many people begin to drive by muscle memory, only “snapping out” of this highway hypnosis when something (like an animal or brake lights) interrupts their focus. That means crashes caused by cognitive distractions tend to be more severe because the driver wasn’t slowing down before the crash.
Almost anything can become a cognitive distraction. Take hands-free phone use, for example.
Voice dictating a text requires that you speak clearly, that you plan out the message (and punctuation) in your head, and that you navigate your phone’s menus in your mind. It’s extremely distracting, which is why the National Safety Council has studied hands-free phones and found that they aren’t any more effective than using an actual phone while driving.
Other cognitive distractions can include talking with passengers or listening to music. Anything that causes you to mentally not pay attention to driving or other drivers around you is a cognitive distraction.
There are other forms of distraction that could impair an individual’s driving.
Triple-threat distractions are those that involve all three types of distracted driving. These are distractions that cause you to take you hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, and your mind away from safe driving at the same time. Some of the most common examples of triple-threat driving distractions include:
- Texting and driving
- Eating and driving
- Singing to your favorite song
- Talking to a passenger
Triple threats are extremely dangerous because the cognitive distraction pulls at your focus and gives you a false sense of security while the visual distraction prevents you from identifying hazards and the manual distraction stops you from responding to them. For this reason, triple-threat driving distractions have a much higher risk of causing more damage due to high speed collisions.
This type of distraction happens to many drivers if they are tired. Drivers may have their hands on the wheel and looking ahead, but mentally and physically, they are not in tune with what they are doing. It’s as if the driver is in a trance. This can be extremely dangerous, especially if the driver ends up falling asleep.
No Type of Distracted Driving is Safe
It may seem like a small distraction to a driver, but the consequences can result in an injury or even death. If you or a loved one were affected by a distracted driver, the team at Dunk Law Firm is here for you. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have won millions for our clients, and we want to get you the best outcome possible. Start your road to recovery with a free consultation — reach out either online or by phone. (800) 674-9339.