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Understanding the 3 types of driver distraction

If you are driving today, you probably know that the issue of driver distraction is one of the most pressing concerns when it comes to traffic and vehicle safety. Where once intoxicated drivers were viewed as the major concern, decades of careful work to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads and technological changes have created a new American driving landscape, one where the potential hazards are more numerous, but where the consequences remain the same.

If you are going to be safe on the road, reducing your own sources of distraction is the name of the game. The first step toward that is to understand how driver distraction works.

Types of distraction

The source of distraction is often one of the key indicators of its severity as well, with distractions that occupy more than one type being especially immersive and dangerous. The three types are:

  • Visual: This occurs when there is a sudden movement or the driver's attention becomes fixated on something other than the road, most commonly, something happening outside the car. It also happens when you attempt to look away to see controls, such as the radio, or to read something on a screen.
  • Manual: If your eyes are on the road but your hands are busy someplace other than the wheel, then you are experiencing a manual distraction. This happens when you adjust the radio, answer a phone, or reach into the back seat for something, as well as any other time you are occupied with a physical task other than driving.
  • Cognitive: The final form of distraction occurs when you are busy making decisions or interacting with people outside of the task of driving. Cognitive distractions pull your judgment from the moment-to-moment decisions you have to make, increasing reaction time.

One of the reasons that using touchscreen devices on the road is so risky is because doing so generally involves all three kinds of distraction.

Facts about distracted driving

To understand what a big problem distracted driving is, one only needs to understand how the demographics most prone to it are affected. Government statistics show that while drivers in their 20s are only responsible for 23 percent of all fatal crashes, they are responsible for 38 percent of the distracted driving crashes that end in fatalities.

This is also the demographic most involved in social media and most prone to smartphone use, which is why it is so important to keep informing the public about the dangers of texting and driving. Anyone involved in an accident that might be due to distracted driving should consider contacting an attorney to learn more about the legal ramifications.

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