What Are the Most Common Types of Distractions While Driving?

June 27, 2023 | David Abels
What Are the Most Common Types of Distractions While Driving?

Even before cell phones, drivers became distracted by sights outside the vehicle, conversations inside the vehicle, eating, drinking, adjusting the car's stereo, and much more. The near-universal presence of cell phones among drivers these days has opened Pandora’s box of distractions, making distracted driving a serious threat.

Anyone who suffers injuries due to a distracted driver should consult with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible about their options.

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What Types of Distracted Driving Lead to Motor Vehicle Accidents?

Any type of motorist distraction can cause a motor vehicle accident.

The common categories of motorist distractions are:

  • Cognitive distractions: These distractions cause the driver to take their mind off the act of driving safely.
  • Visual distractions: These distractions take the driver’s eyes off the road.
  • Manual distractions: These distractions cause the driver to take one or both hands off the steering wheel.

These categories indicate how many distractions can lead to a motor vehicle accident. Specific types of common driver distractions include:

Emotional or Psychological Disturbance

Enraged or emotionally compromised motorists are inherently dangerous with their minds on their mental states instead of the road.

A driver who is angry, forlorn, in a state of shock, or otherwise not themselves may:

  • Drive aggressively
  • Tailgate other motorists
  • Veer out of their lane
  • Turn their head to confront other motorists
  • Fail to keep their eyes on the road
  • Engage in other dangerous driving behavior because their mind and emotions are compromised

These forms of distraction fall in the category of cognitive distractions. Angry drivers may take distraction even further, taking one or both hands off the wheel to direct gestures toward another driver.

Rubber-Necking, Sight-Gazing, and Looking at Other Vehicles 

Motorists must only glance briefly away from the road. If the motorist is looking at an accident, gazing at sights outside the vehicle, looking into other vehicles (or merely at other drivers), or directing their vision anywhere but the road, they’re distracted and at a heightened risk of causing an accident.

Using a Cell Phone

Cell phones are perhaps the most frequent form of distraction for motorists today. Despite the fact that using a cell phone while driving is near-universally illegal in the United States, this crime is rampant.

Drivers use their cell phones to:

  • Read and send text messages
  • Take videos of themselves and outside surroundings
  • Take pictures
  • Adjust music, podcasts, and other media connected to the vehicle’s speakers
  • Talk on the phone
  • Make social media posts
  • View social media feeds
  • Play games

Motorists often use their cell phones as a distraction; most understand their behavior's danger. These parties must be liable for their negligence when they cause accidents.

Engaging in Conversations with Passengers

Most motorists who drive with a passenger in the vehicle speak with the other person this is completely normal, if expected, human behavior.

However, discussions with passengers can become hazardous when:

  • The motorist turns their head to face the passenger they are speaking, a form of visual distraction
  • The motorist allows their attention to the conversation to consume their attention for the road
  • The motorist becomes emotionally upset due to the content of the conversation 

Drivers must ignore social cues when speaking with others in a motor vehicle eyes on the road, hands on the wheel.

Eating or Drinking

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Motorists should generally avoid eating food or drinking beverages while driving. Though there are many cases where drivers are on the road for long hours, they must only take their hand off the wheel when it is safe to do so.

If a motorist needs to eat or drink in a way that can be distracting, they should pull over. Eating and drinking can be distracting enough. If the driver spills food, drink, or condiments on themselves, they may become even more distracted.

Taking Your Hands Off the Wheel

When a motorist takes one or both hands off the wheel for any reason, they’re engaging in distracted behavior. Distracted behavior is dangerous behavior. Dangerous driving behavior causes injuries and claims lives.

What Are the Most Alarming Statistics About Distracted Driving in the United States?

Some alarming statistics that illustrate the danger of distracted driving include:

  • At any moment during daytime driving hours, more than 373,000 drivers are speaking on the phone (GHSA)
  • The rate of drivers texting more than doubled between 2011 and 2020 (IIHS)
  • The average motorist takes their eyes off the road for five seconds at a time while texting and driving, and a vehicle driving 55 mph travels the length of a football field during those five seconds (GHSA)
  • Motorists who use their cell phones while driving are also more likely to engage in other dangerous behaviors suggesting that distracted driving is part of a larger trend of dangerous driving (IIHS)

You do not need statistics to know how frequently drivers are distracting themselves. If you merely observe other motorists when you’re a passenger in a vehicle, you’ll see countless drivers using their phones and engaging in other distracting behaviors. Any of these drivers might cause a crash at any moment.

Are Distracted Drivers Liable When They Cause an Accident?

One way or another, distracted drivers are generally liable for any accident they cause. Depending on the details of their case, the driver's insurer may cover the resulting damages, though, in some instances, the distracted driver may pay out of pocket via a lawsuit.

Distracted Driving Is a Crime, but Your Best Shot at Justice is Through the Civil Justice System

While distracted driving is against the law in many states, it does not fall in the same criminal echelon as drunk or drugged driving. If a distracted driver causes severe injuries to another party, they can face criminal proceedings. However, criminal charges are not guaranteed, and a criminal conviction will not put money in your pocket.

To get the type of justice you deserve, consider hiring a good car accident lawyer. Your attorney will explain your options for pursuing fair compensation from the liable driver, including filing a lawsuit.

Recoverable Damages in Distracted Driving Car Accident Cases

Distracted drivers may cause serious injuries when they:

  • Strike other vehicles head-on because the distracted driver veers into oncoming traffic
  • Fail to brake before striking another vehicle, as the driver’s eyes may be off the road
  • Strike other vehicles at high speeds or dangerous angles

Even if your accident isn’t particularly serious, you deserve to get the entire financial recovery you deserve. 

Recoverable Damages from a Non-Fatal Distracted Driving Accident 

Fortunately, most victims of distracted drivers emerge from their accidents alive.

Still, these victims may suffer many costly damages, including:

  • Medical bills: Accident victims generally hire an attorney because they have suffered one or more injuries, and with injuries come medical bills. Accident-related medical services include imaging, emergency care, hospitalization, and specialist appointments. Liable parties (or their insurer) should cover all accident-related medical bills.
  • Professional damages: A distracted driving accident victim may lose income, earning power, benefits, promotions, and bonuses, and suffer other professional damages due to injury.
  • Pain and suffering: This class of non-economic damages may include physical pain, emotional anguish, psychological distress, lost quality of life, sleeping difficulties, and diagnosed conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions have a cost, and your lawyer will determine the cost.
  • Property losses: Damage to your vehicle may be the most costly property cost from a distracted driving accident. A lawyer will work to have liable parties cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle. Other property-related expenses may come from renting a car, using ridesharing services, and replacing damaged property.
  • Mental and physical rehab costs: If you need physical rehabilitation or treatment for mental and emotional symptoms, an attorney will include your rehab costs in their case.

Each victim of a distracted driver has unique damages. Rather than trying to accurately value their damages (then fight for fair compensation), many accident victims let a lawyer do the work.

What Damages Can a Family Recover From a Fatal Distracted Driving Accident?

Car accident claims can recover more compensation as injuries become more severe. Fatal accidents are the most expensive, costing victims more than $2 million in economic costs alone (on average).

When someone loses a loved one in a distracted driving accident, recoverable damages may include:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of a spouse’s companionship
  • Loss of a parent’s guidance
  • Pain and suffering (and all necessary treatments, like grief counseling)
  • Loss of the decedent’s household contributions
  • Loss of the decedent’s income (and any other forms of monetary support, like work-related benefits)

You're entitled to justice if you were in a non-fatal accident or have lost a loved one. An attorney will lead your lawsuit or claim so you can prioritize your health.

Should I Hire a Lawyer After a Distracted Driving Accident?


Many victims of distracted drivers choose to hire a lawyer because:

  • They can’t handle the demands of a claim or lawsuit: Insurance claims and lawsuits are stressful in the best circumstances. Those with physical injuries or psychological trauma may be unable to handle the demands and pressure of a claim or lawsuit.  
  • They lack litigation experience: Only a small fraction of distracted driving accident victims are lawyers. Most accident victims have limited experience with insurance claims or lawsuits, let alone high-stakes negotiations. 
  • They trust the law firm to build the strongest possible case: Personal injury law firms may offer a team of experienced lawyers, substantial financial resources, and ample experience leading cases like yours. These can be valuable assets when building a lawsuit or claim.
  • They incur no direct financial risk when hiring a lawyer: You can find a personal injury law firm that will charge you no upfront cost. Most firms offer this arrangement, which is known as a contingency fee. If the law firm wins your case, it will get a portion of your recovery but you only pay if they win.

Hiring an attorney means you are serious about getting the compensation you deserve.

An Attorney Will Defend Your Rights Throughout Your Case

Accident victims do not always recognize insurance companies as a potential threat. Insurers have a financial obligation to the insurance company. You should be cautious whether you're dealing with your insurer or another driver's insurer.

Accident victims hire a lawyer, understanding that insurance companies may:

  • Deny their claim without justification
  • Contest the nature or severity of the victim’s injuries
  • Undervalue specific accident-related losses
  • Undervalue the entire value of a claim
  • Offer a lowball settlement
  • Pressure you to accept the cheap settlement
  • Delay your claim
  • Mislead you about the details of your claim

Insurance agents and adjusters have experience. Furthermore, these employees have the support of an employer with substantial financial resources. Without a lawyer, insurance companies may succeed in their goals of withholding the compensation you deserve.

Your lawyer will handle every interaction with insurers. If you have to make any recorded statements, your attorney will prepare you to make them accurately.

What Personal Injury Lawyers Do for Victims of Distracted Driving Accidents?

A lawyer will manage every step and detail of your case, assisting you by:

  • Securing evidence, including video footage of the collision, witness accounts of the distracted driver's negligence, cell phone records, a police report, and any other evidence that helps your case.
  • Hiring experts, who may reconstruct the collision, testify about liability, help value your damages, or assist your case in other ways.
  • Leading settlement negotiations, as liable parties rarely provide the compensation an accident victim deserves without a fight.
  • Completing a trial, if the insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement.

Your lawyer will also complete paperwork, facilitate communications, and oversee every other detail of your lawsuit or claim.

Gary Annes Attorney for Car Accident Cases near Chicago
Gary Annes Car Accident Lawyer in Chicago

Hire a Car Accident Attorney Today to Seek Fair Compensation for a Distracted Driving Accident

Don't wait to locate a trustworthy lawyer and complete free consultation. Personal injury law firm in Chicago will generally speak with you at no cost. You risk nothing by calling a car accident lawyer but risk everything by waiting to hire an attorney. You can only benefit from obtaining the right legal help from a car accident lawyer.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

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David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

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