Visual, Cognitive, Manual: A Guide to the Types of Distracted Driving

While it's been a problem since the arrival of the first automobile, distracted driving has only gotten worse in recent years. This is due, in large part, to the many forms of modern technology which surround us.

However, our technological devices aren't the only things keeping our eyes off of the road. In fact, there are tons of entities which distract us while driving, all of which can be placed into one of three categories: visual, cognitive, or manual distractions.

Below, we're going to discuss all three types of distracted driving. Let's get started.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is the term used to describe any situation in which a person is doing something else while operating a motor vehicle. Common causes of distracted driving involve phone use while driving, singing while driving, and gawking while driving.

Though obviously not all cases of distracted driving end in disaster or tragedy, a fair amount of them do. A 2016 UK study showed that phone use while driving contributed to 35 deaths, or one death almost every 10 days. This doesn't even account for the non-fatal accidents which were caused by distracted driving.

Types of Distracted Driving

There are all sorts of ways to be distracted while driving. Each type of distraction fits into one of three categories. Those categories are visual, cognitive, and manual.


Visual distractions are exactly what they sound like: visual stimuli which attract your eyes, pulling them off of the road. These distractions are extremely common and are oftentimes unavoidable.

Perhaps a stone kicks up in front of your and hits your windshield? That's a visual distraction.

Maybe you're driving through a road construction site? That construction site can be a visual distraction.

Or maybe you're taking a look at your GPS? This is also a visual distraction.

Visual distractions don't necessarily involve the driver taking his or her hands off of the wheel. As long as the eyes are taken off of the road, the distraction is considered a visual one.


Cognitive distractions are distractions of the mind. While they may not be commonly thought of as distractions, they most certainly are, and they can be just as dangerous as visual and manual distractions.

One of the most common examples of distracted driving is daydreaming while driving. This is a scenario which plays out often during long road trips. It's typically spurred on by boredom, and can sometimes result in disaster.

Another common example of cognitive distraction is road rage. Regardless of whether you're driving recklessly, a negative state of mind can do a lot to distract you from the road in front of you.

A cognitive distraction that we're all prone to is talking to others in the vehicle while driving. A simple conversation can take your concentration off the road, making you vulnerable to accidents.

Essentially anything that distracts your mind while driving is considered to be a cognitive distraction.


Manual distractions are distractions in which the driver must take his or her hands off of the steering wheel. While these distractions are often caused by objects, they can also be caused by a general lack of regard behind the wheel. For example, drivers will often use only one hand to manoeuvre the steering wheel, thinking that their other hand is not needed.

However, the most common forms of manual distraction include texting on a cell phone, talking on a cell phone, eating, drinking, looking around for items in the car, and fiddling with the radio. It doesn't matter where you're driving, you're bound to see someone engaging in one of these behaviours while behind the wheel of an automobile.

Examples of Distracted Driving

While many examples of distracted driving fit into only one category, some examples span several categories.

Texting While Driving

Texting while driving is arguably the biggest driving distraction there is. This activity takes your hands off of the steering wheel, takes your eyes off of the road, and takes your mind off of the task at hand. In essence, fits into all three categories of distracted driving: manual, visual, and cognitive.

You should never, under any circumstances, be texting while driving. Anything message you have to send can wait until you get off the road.

Fiddling With Control Knobs

Like texting while driving, fiddling with the control knobs in your car requires a great deal of attention. Not only does it take your hands off the steering wheel, it sometimes takes your eyes off of the road as well. Depending on what exactly you're doing, it can also distract you cognitively.

You should do everything in your power to avoid fiddling with knobs while driving. The solution is to have all knobs adjusted appropriately before you hit the road.

Road Rage

When people are driving, tensions are high. After all, these people are surrounded by 2-ton pieces of metal which are moving at 30 to 70 miles per hour. This can cause both anxiety and anger to rise from within.

The problem is that road rage can be extremely distracting. Depending on the nature of the rage, it can lead to cognitive, manual, and visual distraction.

Though it can be difficult to keep your cool while on the road, it's imperative that you do. Remember, if someone angers you, the moment will pass; you'll be off the road, and you'll never think about the experience ever again.

Prevent Driving Distractions With Romex

Do you manage a fleet of drivers? Looking to do everything you can to cut down on driver distraction? If so, you have to utilize the Romex app.

Our app is designed to reduce all types of distracted driving, blocking calls, text messages, and notifications on drivers' phones until they are safely off the road.

Contact us today to receive a free pilot!