When drivers are distracted, their focus is diverted from the road to something else. This can happen when using electronic devices such as cell phones, and while eating. However, some drivers may not know or believe they are driving distracted.
Distracted driving is deadly, with about eight people dying every day in crashes because of distracted driving in the United States. If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident because of a distracted driver, you can work with one of our Michigan distracted driving injury attorneys to help you get fair compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
What are the Three Types of Driving Distractions?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration categorizes distractions into three types, and the following activities fall under these categories.
1. Cognitive distractions
A cognitive distraction occurs when a driver cannot focus, diverting their mental focus from the road, even if they are still looking ahead. When cognitive distraction occurs, only a fraction of what the driver sees is processed by the brain. Common cognitive distractions include:
Talking to passengers in your car: A study of drivers talking with passengers found the conversations were distracting to the driver. Adult passengers can help drivers by actively watching out the window and discussing traffic rather than taking their attention away from the road.
Speaking on your hands-free smartphone or voice command system: Although smartphones and voice command systems may seem safer to use, they still provide a cognitive distraction as the driver mentally engages in conversation rather than the task of driving. National Safety Council research shows that drivers talking on their mobile phones, even hands-free, miss 50% of their surroundings.
Listening to music, audiobook or podcast: Loud music especially can make it difficult for drivers to hear emergency sirens and result in a loss of control of their vehicle.
2. Visual distractions
Visual distractions cause drivers to look away from the road. These types of distractions include:
Texting on your cell phone: Texting while driving is risky due to combined visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. Even with hands-free texting, device use reduces the drivers’ visual awareness. They ignore their surroundings, putting others at risk. A study found that some drivers didn’t even glance at the traffic lights when visually distracted behind the wheel.
Using your GPS for directions: The risk of setting up a GPS route on your smartphone or GPS device while driving is similar to that of texting. Inattention blindness is a dangerous consequence of drivers who are not paying attention to their surroundings. It happens when drivers fail to detect events occurring in their driving environment, noticing either too late or never at all.
Looking for an object in your car: If you dropped a snack or cellphone, you may feel tempted to retrieve it while driving. However, if you take your eyes off the road for even a few seconds, you have less time to react and avoid an accident.
In five seconds, a car traveling at 55 mph covers the length of a football field. If you take your eyes off the road within that time frame, you may miss pedestrians or another vehicle merging into your lane.
3. Manual distractions
Manual distractions involve the driver removing one hand from the steering wheel to do something else. Among the distractions that cause you to take your hands off the wheel are:
Eating and drinking: Eating and drinking are manual distractions since they require you to use your hands rather than keeping both hands on the wheel. If you spill your beverage, it can be distracting and result in reckless driving behavior.
Caring for a pet: Most pet owners value their pets as an important part of their lives. In some cases, a pet’s needs come before their own. Driving while a dog is free-roaming the vehicle results in much more risky driving, more time spent distracted, and much more stress for the driver and the animal.
Smoking: When smokers use their hands to hold and light their cigarettes, many of them also take their eyes away from the road. A study by the National Institutes of Health indicated cigarette smokers had an average of 12 seconds of distraction. This is the equivalent to traveling 525 feet without looking at the road. Smartphone users, in comparison, had an average of 10.6 seconds of distraction while traveling 492 feet.
Seek an Experienced Distracted Driving Lawyer
Proving the other driver was engaging in one of these or another distracted driving behavior may be difficult. You need a lawyer who can retrieve and review evidence to identify liability. At Fieger Law, we work with clients in Michigan and across the United States who have been injured by distracted drivers. Contact us to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation if you are in a car accident with a distracted driver.