What Are the Most Common Driving Distractions?

Posted on July 21, 2023 in Personal Injury

Distracted driving is rapidly becoming one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents, resulting in thousands of injuries and fatalities each year. These distractions take many forms, all of which may interfere with the attention and focus necessary for a driver to navigate roads safely.

By understanding these common distractions and dangers to public safety, we can begin to identify the risks, work to change driver behaviors, and ultimately make our roads safer for everyone. Connect with a car accident lawyer if you facing any legal issues.

The Three Main Types of Driver Distractions

Driving distractions fall under three main categories: visual, manual, and cognitive. These types of distractions impact drivers differently, compromising various aspects of a driver’s performance and abilities. By understanding each distraction, we can better address their causes and implement strategies to minimize their impact on road safety.

Visual Distractions for Motor Vehicle Drivers

VExperienced Accident Attorney for Accident cases near Phoenix AZ areaisual distractions take a driver’s eyes off the road. Examples of visual distractions include checking a text message, looking at a GPS device, and viewing an accident scene on the side of the road. These distractions increase the likelihood of an accident, as drivers may not identify potential hazards in time to react appropriately.

The effects of visual distractions on driving performance are significant. When the driver’s eyes are off the road, they cannot assess their surroundings properly, anticipate potential hazards, or maintain proper lane position. Consequences may range from minor incidents, including swerving or sudden braking, to catastrophic collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians.

Manual Driving Distractions

Manual distractions involve any activity that takes the driver’s hands off the wheel. Examples include adjusting the radio, eating or drinking, and using a cell phone. These distractions can make it difficult for drivers to maintain control of their vehicles and respond effectively to changes in road conditions.

When a driver’s hands are fiddling with a manual distraction, they may struggle to steer, break, or shift gears effectively. This distraction may result in erratic driving, delayed reaction times, or failure to take evasive action when necessary, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

Cognitive Distractions While Driving

Cognitive distractions take a driver’s focus and mental attention away from driving. Examples include engaging in deep conversation, daydreaming, and experiencing intense emotions, such as anger or stress. While cognitive distractions may not be as readily apparent as visual or manual distractions, they can be just as dangerous and interfere with a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.

A mentally preoccupied driver’s lack of focus compromises their ability to make sound judgments, process information, and react to changing road conditions. Cognitive distractions may lead to a range of unsafe driving behaviors, from delayed braking to failure to recognize traffic signals or identify other vehicles or hazards ahead.

The Most Common Distracting Driving Behaviors

Understanding the most common distractions drivers face helps identify potential dangers and support measures to reduce their impact on road safety. Some distractions are more prevalent than others, but all can contribute to accidents and injuries.


Cell Phone Use

Many states and countries have implemented laws to curb cell phone use while driving, including bans on texting or handheld phone use. These regulations, combined with public awareness campaigns and strict enforcement, can help reduce the prevalence and risks associated with cell phone distractions behind the wheel. Unfortunately, many drivers still engage in these potentially destructive behaviors that can cause motor vehicle accidents.


Texting while driving is especially dangerous, as it combines visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. Reading or composing a text message takes the driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind away from driving. This distraction may result in a significantly increased risk of an automobile accident.

Talking on the Phone

Even just talking on a cell phone, whether handheld or hands-free, is a source of cognitive distraction. Engaging in conversation can divert the driver’s mental attention from the road, impairing their ability to process information and make sound judgments.

Browsing the Internet and Social Media

The rise of smartphones has introduced additional dangers, such as browsing the internet or using social media apps while driving. These activities often demand a driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive attention, creating a dangerous combination that can lead to serious accidents.

Motor Vehicle Passengers

Drivers often have passengers in their vehicles. It may come as a surprise to learn that other vehicle occupants present certain dangers and can cause distractions for drivers on the roads.

Conversations with passengers are also a source of cognitive distraction. Drivers may become absorbed in their discussions, leading to reduced focus on the road and impaired decision-making.

Children and pets in a vehicle can be distracting because drivers often need to attend to their needs or behavior. This diversion of attention may lead to visual and manual distractions and increased cognitive demands as the driver tries to juggle multiple tasks.

Eating and Drinking

Eating and drinking while driving involves visual, manual, and sometimes cognitive distractions. Managing food or drink requires drivers to take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel, while spills and other mishaps can create additional distractions and hazards.

Drivers should strive to minimize eating and drinking while on the road by planning meals around their travel schedule, utilizing rest stops and parking lots, and avoiding messy or cumbersome food items.

Adjusting Vehicle or Navigation Controls

Adjusting the radio or music controls can divert a driver’s attention from the road, resulting in visual and manual distractions. Changing stations, adjusting the volume, or browsing playlists may lead to momentary lapses in focus that can have dangerous consequences.

Fiddling with climate control settings, whether adjusting air conditioning or fumbling with fan controls, can create similar distractions. Drivers should aim to set their preferred temperature and fan settings before beginning their journey and adjust only when necessary.

GPS devices are both helpful and distracting. While they provide valuable navigation assistance, they can also demand a driver’s visual and cognitive attention. Programming a destination, following turn-by-turn directions, or reacting to real-time traffic updates can contribute to a distracted driving experience.

To reduce distractions from adjusting controls, drivers should familiarize themselves with their vehicles’ features, preset their preferences, and limit adjustments while on the road. When using GPS devices, voice-guided directions can help minimize visual distractions.

External Distractions Affecting Drivers

Accidents, broken-down vehicles, and other roadside events can divert a driver’s attention from their driving. These distractions can result in sudden braking, swerving, or other erratic driving behaviors as the driver reacts to the unexpected distraction.

Because billboards and other roadside advertisements capture attention, they can create visual distractions for drivers. Bright lights, moving parts, and provocative content can draw a driver’s eyes and mind away from the road.

Beautiful landscapes, unique architecture, or other visually appealing sights can also distract drivers. While enjoying the view, drivers may let their focus drift away from the task of driving, increasing the risk of accidents.

Drivers should strive to maintain their focus on the road and resist the temptation to look at roadside events, advertisements, or scenic views. By doing so, they can reduce the impact of external distractions and maintain a safer driving environment for themselves and others on the road.

Potential Legal Consequences of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving can have legal implications for the driver engaged in these behaviors. If the driver causes an accident resulting in the death or injury of a victim, they usually face much more serious consequences and impacts on their lives.

Traffic Citations and Fines

Distracted driving can result in traffic citations and fines, with penalties varying depending on the jurisdiction and the specific offense. These consequences can serve as a deterrent for drivers to avoid engaging in distracting behaviors.

Increased Insurance Premiums

In addition to legal penalties, drivers who receive citations for distracted driving may face increased insurance premiums. Insurers often view these drivers as higher risk, resulting in a more costly insurance policy, especially if a distraction causes the accident.

Civil Liability for the Damages

Drivers who cause accidents due to distracted driving may be liable under the law for any injuries or damages resulting from the crash. Car accident lawyers can help victims of distracted driving accidents establish negligence, causation, and the extent of damages to seek compensation through an insurance claim or from the party at fault.

Proving Negligence in a Distracted Driving Accident

To hold a driver liable for an accident resulting from distracted driving, you must be able to prove that they acted negligently through their direct actions or inaction. This proof typically involves demonstrating that the driver breached their duty of care to operate their vehicle safely by engaging in distracting behaviors.

Establishing Causation

In addition to proving negligence, a car accident attorney must establish that the distracted driver’s actions were the direct cause of the accident and resulting injuries. This typically requires a thorough investigation, analysis of the accident scene and evidence, and gathering of witness statements and other testimonies.

Potential Car Accident Damages

In a claim or lawsuit arising from a distracted driving accident, victims may be able to recover personal injury damages for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. The extent of damages and available compensation depend on the severity of your injuries, the impact on your life, and the specific facts of the case.

Criminal Charges in Severe Cases

Distracted driving sometimes results in criminal charges, particularly if the accident results in serious injury or death. Charges may include vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving, or other offenses related to the driver’s actions. Although a criminal case is a separate legal action from a civil lawsuit, citations, arrests, and convictions can become evidence to support negligence or fault in an insurance claim or lawsuit seeking compensation for your losses.

Lessening the Potential Dangers of Distracted Driving

Public awareness campaigns, educational programs, and driver training courses can all play a role in reducing the prevalence of distracted driving. By raising awareness of the dangers and consequences of distracted driving, these efforts can help change driver behaviors and lessen the frequency of accidents in the future.

Technology also has the potential to mitigate distracted driving in some circumstances. Hands-free devices, voice command features, and apps that minimize distractions can help drivers focus more on the road and less on their devices.

While Bluetooth and other hands-free technology may help reduce manual and visual distractions associated with cell phone use, such features may not eliminate cognitive distractions. They can, however, help drivers maintain better control of their vehicles while making calls or accessing other phone functions.

Distracted Driving Legislation and Enforcement

Laws regulating cell phone use and other distractions while driving are critical to reducing distracted driving incidents and are becoming more prevalent across the United States. Strict enforcement and penalties for violations can serve as deterrents, encouraging drivers to focus on the task at hand and prioritize safety.

Seek Help for Your Case After a Distracted Driving Accident

Robert W. Boatman - Experienced Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer for Distracted Driving Accident Cases in Phoenix, AZ area

Robert W. Boatman, Distracted Driving Accident Attorney in Phoenix, AZ 

Distracted driving poses a significant risk to road safety, with common distractions including using cell phones, interacting with passengers, eating and drinking, and adjusting controls, as well as external factors, such as accidents and roadside events. By understanding these distractions and their potential impact on driving performance, we can better address the problem and work toward creating safer roads.

If you are a victim of a distracted driver, a car accident attorney may be able to help. Car accident lawyers can help hold all of the at-fault parties responsible for your losses.

By seeking the compensation you may be eligible for under the law, you can get help from a personal injury attorney in Phoenix for your need to meet your unexpected expenses and impacts as you try to move forward after a distracted driving crash.