Drivers often equate specific actions with distraction. For example, a driver might be eating and changing routes on her GPS system but truly not believe she was distracted because she wasn't talking on the phone. Likewise, another driver might be looking straight ahead, both hands on the steering wheel, but arguing with his three children in the backseat about what they will have for lunch. Is he distracted?
In short, yes.
Distractions can come in many forms, and you are better able to protect yourself from harm the more aware you are of what can pull your focus from the road.
A distraction is not only an activity that directly pulls your attention from the road. Drivers can be distracted by thoughts, emotions or conversations - all while paying attention to their surroundings and keeping both hands on the steering wheel. Typically, distractions can be broken down into three types.
- Cognitive Distractions: Have you ever made it to your destination and had no recollection of the turns you took to get there? What if you cut off another driver without knowing it? Or ran a red light? Daydreaming is a common cognitive distraction. Anything that takes your mental focus away from the task at hand can slow your reaction time and put drivers around you at risk.
- Manual Distractions: The physical contact you make with the car's control surfaces is key to safe driving. Taking your hands off the steering wheel can be disastrous if you need to make sudden course corrections. Eating, holding a phone, personal grooming, reading or manually adjusting a GPS or sound system can force drivers to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel.
- Visual Distractions: Anything that takes your eyes off the road is a visual distraction. Looking at billboards. Looking into another driver's car. Reading. Scrolling through a list of MP3s to select a song to listen to. These are all activities that force you to look away from the traffic around you. Not seeing a car changing lanes, not recognizing stopped traffic, not seeing a child run into the street . . . these can all have devastating, deadly repercussions.
When you add up these three types of distractions, there is one shockingly common activity that touches all factors - texting. Individuals who text while driving must often take their hands off the wheel to manipulate the phone, their eyes off the road to read the text, and their mental focus off the task of driving to consider their response.
If you were involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver, discuss your situation with a skilled personal injury attorney. You can ask questions about your legal options for monetary compensation and discuss your next steps.