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Understanding the 3 Types of Distracted Driving: Visual, Cognitive & Manual

Distracted driving has become a significant issue on roads across the United States, and Downers Grove is no exception.

Distracted driving has become a significant issue on roads across the United States, and Downers Grove is no exception. As personal injury lawyers, we at the Law Offices of Gregory J. Abbott witness firsthand the devastating impact distracted driving can have on individuals and families. This blog aims to shed light on the three main types of distracted driving—visual, cognitive, and manual—and to explore their legal implications in Illinois. We’ll also provide valuable tips on how to avoid distracted driving and discuss the importance of seeking legal advice in personal injury cases.

The Three Types of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is more than just texting behind the wheel; it encompasses a range of activities that divert attention away from driving. These activities generally fall into three categories: visual, cognitive, and manual.

1. Visual Distractions

Visual distractions occur when a driver takes their eyes off the road. Common examples include:

  • Checking a text message or email
  • Looking at a GPS or map
  • Watching videos or using social media
  • Sightseeing or looking at something outside the car

Even a brief glance away from the road can have severe consequences. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), looking away for just five seconds at 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

2. Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions happen when a driver’s mind is not focused on driving. This can include:

  • Daydreaming or thinking about non-driving-related tasks
  • Engaging in an intense conversation, whether with passengers or via a hands-free device
  • Stress or emotional distress

Cognitive distractions are particularly insidious because they can occur even when the driver’s eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel. The brain’s limited capacity for processing multiple tasks simultaneously means that any diversion of mental focus can impair driving performance.

3. Manual Distractions

Manual distractions involve taking one or both hands off the wheel. Common activities that cause manual distractions include:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the radio or climate controls
  • Reaching for objects inside the vehicle
  • Personal grooming, such as applying makeup or shaving

While it might seem manageable to perform these tasks while driving, they can significantly reduce reaction times, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

Legal Implications of Distracted Driving in Illinois

In Illinois, distracted driving is considered a serious offense, with laws in place to penalize those who engage in it. Here’s a brief overview of the relevant legislation:

Illinois Distracted Driving Laws

  • Texting and Driving: It is illegal to compose, send, or read text messages while driving. This includes emails and instant messages.
  • Handheld Device Ban: Drivers are prohibited from using handheld electronic devices. This law applies to all drivers regardless of age or experience.
  • School and Construction Zones: The use of any electronic communication device is restricted in school and construction zones, except in cases of emergency.

Penalties for Distracted Driving

The penalties for distracted driving in Illinois can be severe and may include fines, points added to the driver’s license, and even increased insurance premiums.

  • First Offense: Fine of up to $75
  • Subsequent Offenses: Fines increase with each subsequent offense, up to $150 for a third violation
  • Serious Violations: If distracted driving results in an accident causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement, the driver could face criminal charges

As personal injury attorneys, we often see how these penalties affect not only the driver but also the victims and their families. Understanding the legal framework helps victims seek the justice they deserve.

Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

Preventing distracted driving is crucial for ensuring your safety and the safety of others on the road. Here are some practical tips:

  1. Put Your Phone Away: Store your phone in a place where you won’t be tempted to use it while driving.
  2. Plan Your Route: Set your GPS and review directions before you start driving.
  3. Use Hands-Free Devices: If you must make a call, use a hands-free device or Bluetooth.
  4. Avoid Multitasking: Resist the urge to eat, drink, or groom while driving.
  5. Stay Focused: Keep your mind on the road by avoiding stressful or distracting conversations.


Distracted driving is a preventable menace that poses significant risks to everyone on the road. By understanding the types of distracted driving and adhering to safety tips, we can all contribute to safer roads. If you find yourself affected by a distracted driving incident, don’t hesitate to reach out for legal assistance.

For expert legal advice and support in Downers Grove, IL, contact the Law Offices of Gregory J. Abbott. Contact us today at 630-963-7938 to discuss your case and explore your options for justice and compensation.

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