The Three Main Categories of Distracted Driving

In 2019, over three thousand people were killed by distracted driving. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the yearly population of Provincetown, Massachusetts. An entire community of people can’t compare to the one lost by seemingly incidental bouts from focus behind the wheel.

When we talk about types of distracted driving, we’re referring to anything that takes attention away from the road in front of you. The three main categories of distracted driving are visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. Some examples of this behavior may seem obvious, but even the little things you feel comfortable doing negatively affect your response time.

Let’s talk more about the three main categories of distracted driving and what you can do to prevent this risk as a driver.


Manual distractions are one of the most common types of distracted driving drivers perform daily. It’s usually not malicious, as none of these are. You could be a parent coaxing their child into a seatbelt or a student throwing back an energy drink and a protein bar between school and work. You’re not flipping off drivers or speeding down the highway. You’re just trying to live your life.

And some people live busy lives. In fact, over fifty percent of Americans admit to eating while driving. It’s just something that some people have to do, right?

While that may be the case, manual distractions like these are dangerous. Even if you have your eyes on the road, if a car or other entity ducked in front of your vehicle, you wouldn’t be able to react as quickly as you’d need to. And even if you don’t mean any harm, you should still be ready if harm tries to cross your path at a moment’s notice.


You have to look at a lot of things when you’re driving. But once you build up that rhythm of checking mirrors and the road and your blind spot when you turn, what do you do when something else bids for your attention?

There’s the chime or telltale buzz from your pocket. It could be a text from your friend, or maybe a notification on a post you made. It could even be an urgent email from work. You won’t know until you check, and what’s a better time than the present?

When it comes to types of distracted driving, visual distractions come with their own unique dangers. Because if you’re adjusting the air conditioner, you can still have one eye on the road. But, if you lose yourself in the constant scrolling of texts and other apps, you’re no longer keeping an eye on what’s going on around you.

The CDC estimates that answering or reading a text is akin to driving fifty-five miles per house across a football field with your eyes closed. You can say that you’re the exception with the mechanics of proper driving engraved in your bones. As much as you may insist, you can’t account for the unpredictability of operating a vehicle.

That text can wait. That email is not as important as you may think it is. Keep your eyes on the road.


Out of the three main categories of distracted driving, cognitive distraction is the most deceiving. It fools you because, to the outside observer, you’re a perfectly stable driver with their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Good posture, good positioning – but what’s going on underneath?

You could be thinking of what you’re going to have for dinner that night, or you’re reinventing an argument you got into earlier in a way that makes you seem more clever. Maybe a song is playing on the radio that you haven’t heard since you were a teenager, and now you’re cringing nostalgically over thoughts of your youth.

Your eyes are on the road, but there’s a sign hanging over your brain that reads GONE FISHIN’. And this is a big problem.

When you’re driving, your focus should be on driving. Daydreaming is one thing, but even if you’re talking on a hands-free device, you can be missing half of what’s going on around you. If your mind is drifting, it won’t be long until your car does the same, so do everyone a favor and focus.

Preventing Distracted Driving

Cars, though commonplace now, are objectively massive and vaguely terrifying works of machinery. You wouldn’t drive a tank while scrolling through Twitter, just like how you’d probably wait to eat your sandwich until after you land your helicopter. In that same fashion, you should treat a car like a powerful and highly dangerous transport method.

That means keeping focused in every sense of the word. Your car, your passengers, your health, and that of everyone else on the road will thank you.

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