Every driver has the responsibility to use the road in a manner that is mindful of other drivers. This is known as a duty of care. For example, when a driver engages in any activity that takes their eyes and attention off the road, that driver is no longer driving in a safe manner and could be acting negligently.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of auto accidents in New Mexico and throughout the United States. Despite anti-distracted driving laws and awareness campaigns, distracted driving still claims over 3,000 lives annually nationwide. So what types of distractions cause car accidents?
Understanding the three categories of driver distraction
Basically, there are three main types of driver distraction: manual, visual and cognitive. Each type of distraction can put lives at risk, and often all three types of distraction are involved in crashes.
- Manual distraction — Any activity that requires you to physically remove your hands from the steering wheel amounts to manual distraction. Such activities include smoking, using your phone, grooming, tuning the radio, adjusting temperature control, or eating and drinking. With your hands off the wheel, your ability to steer properly is immensely reduced, and a sudden traffic hazard like an object on the road can easily lead to an accident.
- Cognitive distraction — You need to be fully focused on the road to drive safely. Any activity that takes your attention off the road can constitute cognitive distraction. Some of these activities include daydreaming, getting caught up in a discussion with your passengers, impaired driving, or talking on the phone while driving.
- Visual distraction — Anything that takes your eyes off the road can be visually distracting. Visual distractions include reading emails or text messages, grooming, searching around the vehicle for items, or looking at the radio or other devices.
Studies have shown that phone use is perhaps the most common and most dangerous type of distraction, and texting while driving has been shown to be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
Even when you are doing everything you can to ensure that you are not distracted behind the wheel, you have no control over another driver’s behavior. If you suffer injuries due to a distracted driver, it’s important to know your options for obtaining the financial compensation you need for medical bills, lost income and other costs resulting from the crash. To learn more, please see our New Mexico car accident overview.