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3 types of distracted driving

Multitasking, once confined to the workplace, is now a staple of everyday life. On top of the traditional distractions, technological leaps are making distracted driving more of a danger than ever before.

Distracted driving accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving was a cause of roughly 450,000 accident-related injuries and nearly 5,500 fatalities in 2009 alone. Because this data comes from police reports, which may not record all driving distractions, the true figure is likely higher.

Cognitive, visual, and manual

Types of distracted driving

Distracted driving comes in 3 different forms:

  • Cognitive distraction

    Cognitive or mental distraction is when a driver's mind isn't focused on driving. Talking to another passenger or being preoccupied with personal, family, or work-related issues are some examples.

    Even drivers listening to their favorite podcast or radio station are at risk; the audio can take drivers' focus away from their driving and overall surroundings.

  • Visual distraction
    Visual distraction occurs when a driver looks at anything other than the road ahead. Drivers who check the kids' seat belts while driving are visually distracted. Electronic devices for the car, such as GPS devices and portable DVDs/digital entertainment systems, also distract drivers.
  • Manual distraction
    Manual distraction is when the driver takes one or both hands off the wheel for any reason. Some common examples include eating and drinking in the car, adjusting the GPS, or trying to get something from a purse, wallet, or briefcase.

Texting and driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all 3 forms.

5 tips to avoid common driving distractions

Keeping your focus on the road can be easier said than done. Here are some things you can do to avoid this common problem.

  • Turn off your cell phone — even if you're expecting an important business call.
  • If you need to be reachable at all times, get a hands-free device to use only in case of emergency. Why only in emergencies? Because studies have shown that hands-free devices prove just as distracting as normal cell phone use while driving.
  • When driving with children or pets, make sure the kids are strapped into their seats and pets are in carriers. If they need your attention during the drive, pull over before handling the situation.
  • Eat before or after you drive. Just don't eat while driving.
  • Program your GPS before you leave the driveway.

Driving and multitasking don't mix

We know it's tempting to answer that email or reprogram that GPS which just rebooted itself for the third time. But if you're able to resist the temptation and focus on the road ahead, you'll be able to react to the unexpected and maybe even avoid an accident.

Related links

Texting and driving: the perfect storm
Find out how texting and driving combines all 3 types of distracted driving and learn which states are cracking down.

Good driving discounts for drivers
Driving safely pays. Staying off the cell phone to avoid accidents can lead to a clean driving record, which can lead to lower car insurance premiums.