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What Differentiates Distracted Driving From Inattentive Driving?

Colburn Law

Driving demands undivided attention. You not only need to maneuver a vehicle and follow traffic rules, but you also need to constantly respond to the dynamic environment of the road. Any distractions, daydreams, or other factors that take your concentration away from driving can result in devastating accidents.

Distracted and inattentive driving are two behaviors that impair this critical focus. However, they do so in different ways, creating unique risks and consequences.

Distracted Vs. Inattentive Driving

Distracted driving involves activities that divert a driver’s attention from the road and onto non-driving tasks. Texting, adjusting the radio, and even talking to other passengers in the car are all examples of this behavior. Distracted driving is often a deliberate choice, where the driver opts to engage in an activity knowing it could compromise their focus.

Conversely, inattentive driving refers to a lapse in concentration or zoning out while driving, without the presence of an external distraction. It often stems from fatigue, emotional distress, daydreaming, and high stress levels.

Unlike distracted driving, inattentive driving is not always a conscious decision and can occur subtly, making it insidious and equally dangerous. Drivers may not even be aware of their diminished focus until an abrupt need to react jolts them back to attention.

Different Types of Distractions While Driving

Distracted driving can encompass any behavior that takes your mind, eyes, or hands off the act of driving. These distractions can arise from multiple sources, such as:

  • Personal Electronics: Devices like smartphones and tablets, when used for texting, browsing, or entertainment while driving, are very common culprits. Many state laws that address distracted driving are targeted toward smartphone use.
  • In-Car Adjustments: Activities such as setting GPS routes, changing music, or adjusting climate controls require physical and visual attention that should be reserved for the road. Unfortunately, it is a common practice for drivers to adjust these controls while driving.
  • Passengers: Conversations with passengers or attending to children in the car can split a driver’s attention. If emotions are high or a discussion is overly engaging, a driver can fail to drive safely, resulting in an accident.
  • Eating and Drinking: It’s common for drivers to grab a coffee or a snack to have on the go. However, handling food or drinks while driving can cause physical distractions and take drivers’ eyes off the road.

Signs That a Driver May Be Inattentive or Distracted

Identifying inattention or distraction in drivers can potentially prevent a dangerous accident. Common signs of a negligent driver may include:

  • Sudden braking
  • Erratic steering
  • Slow reaction to traffic signals
  • Unusual speed fluctuations
  • Ignoring roadway signs
  • Drifting between lanes

Accidents resulting from distracted or inattentive driving can be severe. If you are injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver in Washington, you have the right to seek justice. By filing an insurance claim or lawsuit, you can pursue compensation for any losses that you suffered.

Consulting with an attorney can provide insight into your legal options, helping you understand the steps you can take to seek justice. After your accident, schedule a free consultation with a Seattle car accident lawyer to explore your options for financial recovery.