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Distracted driving: 3 types of serious risk

Distracted driving is more than just texting and driving. It's true that texting -- or cellphone use in general -- tends to get the most attention. In some ways, it should. People are addicted to their phones and these devices cause accidents every day. It's important to raise awareness and get people to put their phones down while they drive.

But it's also important to remember that distracted driving takes a lot of different forms. Drinking a cup of coffee on your commute to work can be a distraction. Turning around to talk to your kids can distract you from the road. Drivers face a host of distractions, and they have to fight back against this to keep themselves and others safe.

The three types

The issues listed above are very specific activities, but it's easier to understand distracted driving if you think about the three main general categories. They can also show up in different specific actions, like disciplining children or sending a text. But knowing about the categories shows you just how widespread distraction really is. These three categories are:

  • Visual distractions
  • Manual distractions
  • Cognitive distractions

A visual distraction, as you may suspect, is something that pulls your eyes away from the road. A good example is looking down at your phone, but you need to remember that visual distractions also exist outside of the car. If you gawk at an accident or read a billboard, that's a visual distraction.

A manual distraction means you do not necessarily have full physical control of the car because you have let go of the wheel with at least one hand. Again, using a phone fulfills this, but so do a multitude of other common activities: eating a sandwich, drinking a coffee, reaching for a phone that you dropped, petting your dog or changing the radio station.

A cognitive distraction is when your mind wanders away from the task at hand. You start thinking about something other than traffic and driving. You may be looking at the road, but are you really seeing it? Are you taking in what you see? If you're daydreaming about a vacation or thinking about that paper you have to write or that project you need to get done at work, you're not focused on the road.

Car accidents

Any distraction can lead to an accident. Even if you avoid these three types of distraction yourself, you have to share the road with many other drivers who will not manage to do the same thing. They'll get distracted in numerous ways and they will cause car accidents. After such a crash, if you're facing high medical bills and related costs, you need to know what options you have.

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