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Examining the different types of driving distractions

Most car accidents that occur on Salem's roads are just that: accidents. Very rarely will a person intentionally cause a collision. Yet even though intent is typically not present in a car crash, some degree of blame typically is. It is often carelessness or recklessness (even though it is unintended) on the part of at least one party involved that leads to accidents. Recent years have seen distracted driving being cited more and more as the cause of roadway damages, injuries and fatalities. Indeed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,166 people were killed due to distracted driving in the U.S. in 2017 alone. 

When people think of distracted driving, they may immediately conjure up images of people talking or texting on their cell phones while behind the wheel. While there is good reason for this (as the proliferation of cell phones has led to more and more drivers using them while driving), cell phones are not the only types of driving distractions. A collaborative effort between the Auto Alliance and the American Academy of Orthopaedic surgeons identified the following three primary classifications for driving distractions: 

  • Manual distractions: Activities which force drivers to take one or both hands off the steering wheel
  • Visual distractions: Activities which force drivers to take their eyes off the road
  • Cognitive distractions: Activities which force drivers to their attention away from the road

Defined in this way, any number of actions can lead to distracted driving. Eating, drinking, adjusting the car stereo or air conditioning or even talking might be distracting. Some may argue that these actions are so natural that they should not even be considered distracting. Yet when drivers who cause accidents admit to doing them, the results speak for themselves. 

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