No matter what specific distraction a driver is dealing with — eating, drinking, talking on the phone, etc — odds are that it falls into one of three main categories. As we’ll see, some of them fall into multiple categories at the same time.

According to safe driving experts, those three types are:

  • Cognitive (Mental)
  • Visual
  • Physical

An example of a physical distraction is trying to pick up a cellphone that fell on the floor and slid under the passenger seat. You’re supposed to have two hands on the wheel, but you may only have one or none at all.

A visual distraction is gawking at another accident as you go by. Rather than watching traffic ahead of you, you stare at the crashed cars and the emergency vehicles. This often leads to secondary accidents.

A cognitive or mental distraction is thinking about work or daydreaming about the weekend. People who get bored or deal with a lot of stress — or both — often find their minds wandering when they drive. This is especially true when they’re on a road that they travel a lot, such as their morning commute.

One major activity that falls into all three groups is texting and driving. Mentally, you think about what message to write. Physically, you let go of the wheel to hold the phone. Visually, you look down at the screen instead of the road.

It’s no wonder that texting and other distractions cause so many accidents. Those who suffer injuries may be able to seek financial compensation after a crash.