While most drivers agree that certain activities are distractions, other activities are so commonplace they might elude that designation. For example, while texting and driving is almost universally agreed to be a dangerous activity, eating while behind the wheel leads to nearly the same types of cognitive distractions and is a far more common action. Unfortunately, while the range of distracted driving tasks continues to expand, so does the number of incidents they cause.
Even though it is possible that many activities can cross the boundaries of multiple categories, driving distractions generally fall into three types, including:
- Manual distractions: These types of activities are ones that require the use of the driver’s hands. Generally, the completion of this category of task means that the driver has removed one or both hands from the steering wheel for any length of time. Common examples of this can include dining and driving, texting while driving or manipulating the menu of any type of electronic device while behind the wheel.
- Visual distraction: Some activities require the driver to look away from the road, traffic signals and cabin mirrors. Drivers who cannot see the traffic around them might miss safety signs and stopped vehicles.
- Cognitive distractions: While not generally considered activities, there are certain times when a driver’s focus wanders from the task at hand. Many drivers equate this with daydreaming. Whether the driver is thinking about what to have for dinner, planning a challenging conversation or running through the events of the day, he or she must remain attentive while on the road.
As mentioned, many activities satisfy all three conditions. For example, texting while driving represents all three distractions. Manual – holding the phone and/or typing in a message. Visual – reading a message and watching they keyboard. Cognitive – thinking about the conversation and mulling over possible responses.
Any activity that forces a driver’s focus and attention from the primary task at hand is a dangerous distraction. Distracted drivers can cause devastating vehicle collisions resulting in catastrophic injuries. These injuries can include broken bones, head trauma, spinal cord damage, amputation and paralysis.