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Types of Distracted Driving

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Posted By Legal Team | August 22 2023 | Car Accidents

With the rise of the smartphone has come a parallel rise in distracted driving accidents in the United States, claiming 3,552 lives in 2021, up from 3,142 in 2020. Despite bans on texting and driving in almost every state, distracted driving continues to take lives. While most people surveyed feel they can safely read or send a quick text while on the road, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns drivers that at 55mph, they drive the length of a football field in 5 seconds—the average amount of time it takes to read or answer a short text.

Distracted driving is not only a significant safety risk—responsible for an average of 8 deaths per day, as well as many accidents with property damage and injuries—it also leaves the distracted driver liable for damages in states with at-fault insurance laws.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Our experienced Atlanta car accident lawyers understand that it is all too easy to get comfortable behind the wheel after years of driving. Motorists feel as though their vehicle is an extension of their own body and forget that they are actually moving at high rates of speed. Distracted driving occurs whenever something takes the driver’s attention away from the road, even if it’s only for a moment. 

When a driver engages in any other activity instead of focusing their full attention on the primary task of operating their vehicle and vigilantly watching the road and their surroundings, they’re engaging in distracted driving. Experts recognize three types of distracted driving:

  • Visual distractions
  • Manual distractions
  • Cognitive distractions

These distractions divide a driver’s attention, taking a portion of their focus away from the primary task of driving.

Examples of Distracted Driving

Any of the three types of distractions can result in an accident and cause serious injuries seen by our personal injury lawyers in Atlanta. Visual distractions occur when something takes the driver’s eyes off the road. Examples of visual distractions include:

  • Looking at a passenger inside the vehicle
  • Reading a text message
  • Turning to look at an accident on the roadside

Manual distractions occur when a driver takes one or both hands from the wheel to do something else. Examples of manual distractions while driving include:

  • Answering a text
  • Adjusting a sound system
  • Eating
  • Retrieving a dropped item from the floorboard
  • Applying lipstick or other grooming products
  • Handing items to children in the back seat

Cognitive distraction is a broad term that refers to anything that takes a driver’s mind off of the road. Examples include:

  • Being deep in thought or focusing on a work or personal problem
  • Daydreaming
  • Selecting a playlist or podcast
  • Intently listening to music or a podcast
  • Singing along to music
  • Engaging in absorbing conversation with a passenger
  • Talking on the phone

While cognitive distractions are intangible and not always easy to prove, it’s a common cause of accidents. 

If you’ve ever arrived at a destination with very little memory of the drive because you were deep in thought, you may have thought, “Wow, I was on auto-pilot.” That’s an example of cognitive distraction while driving.

Cognitive distractions may be difficult to control, but it’s important to keep your focus on the primary task of driving and not allow your mind to drift to other things.

The Distracted Driving Triple-Threat

Historically, distracted driving meant eating a cheeseburger or changing a radio station, but today’s drivers face a triple threat with their smartphones inside their vehicles. When a driver uses a phone to text, select a playlist or podcast, set a GPS address, check a notification, or make a call to a loved one, using a cell phone results in visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. The triple threat of cell phones has caused a serious rise in distracted driving accidents nationwide.

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