The Three Types of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has become a serious public health issue. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 391,000 people were injured in accidents involving distracted drivers in 2015 alone. Distracted driving can include any activity that takes a person’s attention away from the road ahead. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies three types of distracted driving:

  • Manual Distractions – Manual distractions occur when a driver takes his or her hands off the wheel.
  • Visual Distractions – Visual distractions take a driver’s eyes off of the road.
  • Cognitive Distractions – Cognitive distractions are things that take a driver’s mental attention off of driving.

Importantly, certain activities can involve two or even all three types of distractions, making them particularly dangerous. For example, when a driver composes a text message on a smartphone, he or she is using his hands and looking at the phone to enter the text and also thinking about the conversation in which he or she is engaged, making it a manual, visual, and cognitive distraction.

Driver Distractions Involve Much More than Cell Phones

The relatively recent rise in the popularity and ubiquity of smartphones has meant that much of the conversation having to do with distracted driving focuses on how drivers use them. While it is undoubtedly true that texting, checking email, browsing the internet, or simply talking on the phone can be distracting, driver distraction can also be decidedly low-tech. In fact, it’s a safe bet that driver distractions have been a safety issue since the first days of the automobile in the early 20th century.

Some examples of non-smartphone-related driver distractions include:

  • Grooming
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Looking for items under the seat or in the back of the vehicle
  • Attending to children or pets
  • Talking to passengers
  • Looking at scenery
  • Applying makeup
  • Adjusting the radio
  • Using a GPS device
  • Reading a map

Recovering Compensation after an Accident Caused by a Distracted Driver

If an accident is someone else’s fault, California law allows victims to recover compensation for their accident-related losses. In addition, under a doctrine known as negligence per se, the law presumes that a driver was at fault if the driver violated a traffic law and the violation caused an accident. California has a distracted driving law that prohibits drivers from using mobile phones for calling, texting or reading while they were driving.