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The three main types of driver distraction

Distracted driving is a continually growing problem for Chicago and the nation as a whole. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1,000 people are injured or killed as the result of driver distraction every day in the U.S. In 2011, 17 percent of all motor vehicle accidents involved a distracted driver. While smart phone use is often one of the most publicized versions of distracted driving, there are three main types that can have a serious effect on the health and safety of motorists and those around them.

Manual distraction

Distracted driving is classified as any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the primary task of driving. Manual distraction takes place when that distracting task requires that a driver remove their hands from the steering wheel of the vehicle they are operating. Examples of manual distraction include eating, drinking, reaching for objects within the vehicle and adjusting the radio.

Visual distraction

When drivers perform a task that takes their eyes off of the road ahead of them, they are being visually distracted. One of the most common occurrences of visual distraction occurs when passing motorists view a car accident. This “rubbernecking” can take a driver’s eyes off the road for an extended period of time, and secondary accidents are not uncommon because of the practice. Other tasks that can involve visual distraction include talking to passengers, adjusting the radio, and operating electronics.

Cognitive distraction

Cognitive or mental distraction is one of the most potentially dangerous situations a driver can put themselves in. It occurs when a motorist’s mind is not focused on the task of driving. When this happens, drivers could be doing everything else correctly, but their brains lack the awareness necessary to quickly react to outside stimuli. If a driver is cognitively distracted and a person runs out into the road in front of them, the driver may not see them until it is too late to avoid the collision. Something as simple as listening to the radio can take a person’s mind away from their driving. Other potentially dangerous tasks include reading, talking to passengers, disciplining children, and talking on a cell phone.


It is important for motorists to remember that most distracting tasks will involve more than one type of distraction. Texting is one of the greatest examples of how dangerous any activity can be because it involves all three kinds of distraction.

Despite numerous campaigns by local, state and federal administrations and agencies to raise awareness on the subject, motorists continue to drive while distracted. Those who have endured serious injury due to the negligent driving of another can seek compensation for their injuries with the help of a Chicago personal injury attorney.

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