woman driving while manually, visually, and cognitively distracted

What Are the Three Types of Distraction That Cause Car Accidents?

April 5, 2024

Distracted driving is among the most dangerous habits that drivers can engage in. Accounting for approximately nine percent of all fatal accidents in the United States, distracted driving kills more than 3,000 people annually. However, fatalities alone do not capture the full scope of the problem. Hundreds of thousands of distracted driving accidents result in serious injuries every year as well.

With the increasing reliance on digital devices and the multitasking lifestyle, the dangers of driving while distracted have never been higher. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, The Haynes Firm is here to help you seek the justice you deserve.

To schedule a FREE and confidential consultation with an experienced Johnson City car accident lawyer, call The Haynes Firm at 423-928-0165 today. We welcome clients from all areas of Tennessee.

What Are the Three Types of Distraction?

Three primary types of distraction can impact a driver’s attention and reaction time. These are:

Manual Distractions

Manual distractions cause a driver to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel, compromising vehicle control. Common instances include:

  • Eating or Drinking: Handling food or drinks is a significant cause of distraction, as holding these things requires using hands that should be on the wheel.
  • Adjusting Controls: Changing vehicle settings, like the radio, climate controls, or navigation systems, often requires tactile interaction that diverts attention from driving.
  • Personal Grooming. Applying makeup, combing hair, and performing other grooming tasks occupy hands that should be steering the vehicle.
  • Texting or Dialing: Using a phone to text, dial, or browse social media is particularly hazardous because it combines manual, visual, and cognitive distractions.

Visual Distractions

Visual distractions pull a driver’s gaze away from the road. Even when vision is diverted briefly, it can lead to missing critical cues needed to avoid accidents. Examples include:

  • Using GPS Devices: While helpful for navigation, looking at a GPS device can cause drivers to miss vital road signs or obstacles.
  • Looking at Passengers or Objects: Turning to talk to passengers or looking at something outside the car—like an advertisement or accident scene—takes eyes off of surrounding vehicles and hazards.
  • Reading Text Messages or Notifications: Glancing at a screen to read texts or notifications takes eyes off the road, increasing the risk of collision.

Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions occur when a driver’s mind is not entirely focused on driving. These distractions can be as dangerous as physical distractions because the driver may be looking at the road but not actually processing the driving environment. Cognitive distraction may include:

  • Daydreaming: Losing focus and letting the mind wander can lead to slower reaction times to unfolding road and traffic conditions.
  • Emotional Distress or Stress: Driving while upset, angry, or stressed can impair decision-making skills and reaction times.
  • Engaging in Conversations: Deep or emotionally charged conversations, even via hands-free devices, can significantly distract a driver from the task at hand.

Using a handheld device while driving is often cited as one of the most dangerous driving behaviors because it simultaneously involves manual, visual, and cognitive distractions. A driver on a handheld device is not only using their hands to manipulate the phone and their eyes to read the message, but their concentration is also shifted from driving to the content on the screen.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, making it an excellent time to assess your habits while also becoming aware of the dangers other drivers may pose. Remaining alert and attentive is just as important as remaining sober when it comes to preventing and avoiding car accidents.

The car accident lawyers at The Haynes Firm are dedicated to helping victims of distracted drivers seek fair compensation for their injuries. During your complimentary case review, we can assess the extent of your damages to help you determine how much your distracted driving claim may be worth.

Is Distracted Driving Illegal?

Distracted driving, particularly using mobile devices while operating a vehicle, has become a significant concern across the United States. In response, Tennessee has implemented stringent measures to curb this dangerous behavior through the Hands-Free Driving Law.

Under the Tennessee’s Hands-Free Driving Law, drivers are prohibited from:

  • Holding a mobile device with any part of their body
  • Writing, sending, or reading any text-based communication
  • Watching a video or movie on a mobile device
  • Recording or broadcasting video (exceptions apply for dash cams)

The law allows drivers over the age of 18 to use voice commands and hands-free technology. It also provides some exceptions for adult drivers to touch a handheld device. Still, its primary goal is to minimize the need for physical interaction with devices, thereby reducing manual and visual distractions.

Hands-Free Doesn’t Mean Distraction-Free

Tennessee’s Hands-Free Driving Law allows hands-free technology for some drivers. However, while hands-free technology is marketed as a safer alternative, it doesn’t eliminate distractions. As reported by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, hands-free devices can still cause significant cognitive distraction, leading to an increased risk of causing an accident. This means that even when drivers act within the law, they may still pose a serious risk to everyone else on the road.

In personal injury cases resulting from distracted driving accidents, establishing that the other driver was distracted at the time of the crash is essential for the success of the claim. This is where the help of an experienced car accident lawyer becomes invaluable.

An attorney with experience in distracted driving cases knows the type of evidence needed to substantiate the claim of distraction. Our lawyers take time to investigate these claims, ensuring all evidence is examined thoroughly and all contributing factors are identified.

Our Car Accident Lawyers Can Help

Handling the complexities of distracted driving cases requires a comprehensive understanding of the law, a strategic approach to evidence gathering, and compassionate yet unrelenting advocacy for victims. At The Haynes Firm, our dedicated car accident lawyers bring more than 70 years of combined legal experience to the table, giving us significant insight into how to conduct these cases. We employ a meticulous approach to investigation and evidence collection to help establish a clear link between distraction and the accident.

Our commitment to justice is driven by a genuine concern for the well-being of our clients. The personalized, one-on-one attention we provide—combined with our aggressive trial strategies and award-winning legal advocacy—truly sets us apart. With a reputation for excellence and a track record of success, you can trust The Haynes Firm to fight for your rights and help you seek the compensation you are due.

Contact a Johnson City Car Accident Lawyer for a FREE Case Review

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a car accident, contact The Haynes Firm online or call us for a FREE consultation. Our car accident lawyers have decades of experience helping victims of serious injury seek fair compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and more. Located in Johnson City, we proudly represent people living in Bristol, Kingsport, Erwin, Greenville, and throughout Tennessee.

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