background hero

The 3 Types of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has become more prevalent with the rise of smartphone use in cars. According to the NHTSA, 3,142 people were killed in 2020 as a result of distracted driving.

The three most dangerous types of distracted driving are visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. And you know what checks all three of those boxes? Smartphones.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that takes your attention away from driving. This answer sounds obvious, but most people would consider benign activities like singing along to the radio in the car as acceptable driving behavior. 

Anything that takes your total attention away from the road can be considered distracted driving. 

Why is Distracted Driving Dangerous?

Distracted driving is dangerous because operating a vehicle at any speed can be inherently dangerous–taking the smallest attention away from that increases the risk of danger. 

Activities like eating or using your smartphone can slow down your reaction times or your ability to make important decisions on the road.

These behaviors don’t just put you and your passengers at risk, but the people sharing the road with you, too. Is it worth killing a mother and child crossing the street just to look at a text message you might have missed?

The 3 Types of Distracted Driving

There are three main types of distracted driving. As we mentioned before, one particular activity encompasses all three, and that’s smartphone use. Here we’ll take a look at each type of distracted driving and how each affects your ability to drive a car safely.

Visual Distractions

Anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road, or takes your attention away even from your periphery, is a visual distraction. 

A glance at a smartphone, GPS map, a passenger in your car, or even checking the time on your dashboard is a visual distraction. A split-second glance at something else is enough time for you to get into an accident. 

Manual Distractions

Manual distractions while driving involve taking your hands off the wheel or any part of your car critical in its operation–like a shifter.

Again, smartphones all require manual use to get anything done on them, so they are manual distractions. Even if your phone is mounted on a dash or vent bracket, you should only check them when it is absolutely safe to do so, like when you’re pulled over.

Eating, applying makeup, searching for items in your car, and even just gesturing to your favorite song are all manual distractions. 

No life is worth taking for any of these driving distractions. Keep your hands on the wheel, be vigilant, and you won’t need to call us.

Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions occur when your mind is not completely focused on the road ahead of you. This can involve reading something on your smartphone, engaging in an emotional conversation (either on the phone or with someone in the car), or even singing passionately along with your favorite song. 

Even if your hands are on the wheel and your eyes are on the road, a cognitive distraction can and will slow your reaction times. 

In fact, you might have even had moments when you were driving and missed your exit or junction because you were daydreaming. This is called Highway Hypnosis and occurs when your mental state is altered and focused somewhere else.

What Causes Distracted Driving?

Smartphones, eating, singing, daydreaming, and conversing with someone in your car (or worse, fighting with someone in your car) all cause distracted driving. 

You’ve probably experienced the frustration of being behind someone when a traffic light has turned green and they haven’t moved yet. What do you think they’re doing? They’re likely driving distracted and looking at their smartphone.

California’s AB 47 Laws and Distracted Driving

Previously, we’d written on AB 47:

California AB 47 went into effect on July 1, 2021. This law was primarily established to punish drivers who would use their cell phones while operating a vehicle. If a driver is caught performing such an action more than once within a 36-month period, they will be subject to serious repercussions, such as getting a point added to their driving record. If a driver continues to accumulate points within this three-year time frame, they can get their license revoked or suspended. 

West Coast Trial Lawyers

WCTL Will Support You After a Distracted Driving Crash

If you’ve been in an accident and suspect that the other person was a distracted driver, give us a call. Put your trust in our experienced car accident lawyers at West Coast Trial Lawyers to gather evidence and conduct an investigation that proves the other person was negligent and distracted. Let us get you the compensation and justice you deserve.

Free Case Evaluation

I understand that by submitting this form, I consent to being contacted by West Coast Trial Lawyers regarding my case by way of call, email, or text. Information is not shared with third parties. Msg & data rates may apply.


510 Reviewers

They know what they're doing, very well. Not only did I not make a single phone call from the day I hired them, but I also received calls from their case managers and paralegals who want to make sure my treatment was going well. They whole team took care of me. Thank you WCTL for taking full responsibility of my case and getting me an amazing settlement.



293 Reviewers

I can say with confidence that this team is the best in the business. . . . Dean took the time to really listen and hear me out. He assured me that he was going to move mountains because he believed in me, and he ended up doing just that. I’ve never met a more focused and passionate attorney in my life. If you’re looking for a firm that treats its clients with the utmost respect and care, calling WCTL is a no-brainer. I wouldn't think twice about working with them again in the future.