3 critical types of distracted driving

You see driver distraction daily. Maybe it's the Uber driver trying to type a new address into his phone. Maybe it's the teen driver trying to text her friends on the way to the movies. Maybe it's the parent with three kids in the back seat, looking back to talk to them or hand out snacks.

The list of potential distractions is nearly endless. However, looking at the specifics -- texting and driving, talking and driving, etc. -- doesn't really help break down the distractions properly. They generally fall into three main categories: Physical distractions, mental distractions and visual distractions.

Physical distractions

Often called manual distractions, these include anything that makes you physically unable to hold the wheel and drive the car. For instance, you have your cellphone on your lap, but it slides off as you go around a corner. You let go of the wheel to catch it or to dig it out from under the seat.

Mental distractions

These are typically called cognitive distractions, and they just mean you aren't fully thinking about driving. Sometimes it's as simple as getting bored behind the wheel and letting your mind wander. People get so used to driving that they forget they're traveling at potentially deadly speeds and that an accident can happen in a split second, so they're not ready when it does.

Visual distractions

Looking at something other than the road is a visual distraction. In some cases, even things in the road can pose a problem. Many accidents happen when traffic slows around a crash and, as people gawk at the first accident, one car rear-ends another while neither driver is paying any attention.

Complete distraction

Perhaps the worst distractions are those that fit into every one of these categories. Take the example above of the teen driver texting her friends. Her mind is wandering as she thinks about the time, the movie and what she wants to say. At least one hand is off the wheel as she gets her phone out and holds it to text; even using talk-to-text means she's likely holding the phone. As she types or sends the message, she looks away from the road and down at the screen.

People know the risks. A study found that 90 percent said distracted driving was risky. Even so, about 33 percent admitted to emailing or texting while driving in just the past 30 days. They know the risks, yet they engage in the worst distractions out there.

Car accidents

This helps to shed some light on why reports claim 25 percent of all crashes stem from distraction. It also shows why it's important for people to know their rights when another driver hits them.

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