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Driving blind: Understanding driver distraction

There's one danger that's affecting all drivers, regardless of where they are driving. How can you reduce the risk for your team?

There are many different dangers facing you and your drivers on the roads, including environmental factors, challenging terrain, and risky scenarios.

However, there's one danger that affects all drivers regardless of where they are driving: distractions.

Research shows that distractions significantly impact our ability to drive safely.

So how do we reduce the risk?

First, we need to understand how distraction affects our driving and what is causing us to be distracted. Then, we can more effectively help the drivers in our organisations understand the risks and manage distractions.

Distracted driving causes inattention blindness

Vision is the most important sense for safe driving. Distracted drivers, whether talking on the phone, texting, eating, putting on makeup, or something other than focusing on the task at hand, tend to 'look at' but not 'see' objects.

This phenomenon is called inattention blindness. Similar to tunnel vision, this occurs when people look at something but don’t really take it in. Various factors can cause inattention blindness, but the result is the same: the driver lacks crucial information needed to make safe driving decisions.

This is why distracted driving is so dangerous – their inattention puts themselves and others at risk.

Mobile phones are among the biggest driver distractions

One thing that is becoming increasingly studied is the effects of phones on the way we drive. Cell phones are an increasing cause of inattention blindness. Estimates show that drivers using a cell phone (even if it's hands-free) miss up to 50% of the information in their driving environment.

It's difficult to tell exactly how many crashes involve distraction by mobile phones as a factor, but the statistics are frightening. Estimates from one NSC white paper suggest that11% of drivers are talking on the phone while driving at any one time. This is an American statistic, but the problem is bad here on both sides of the Tasman as well.

Does your driver policy clearly emphasise the danger of mobile phone usage and support employees in reducing this key risk?

Different types of distractions affect drivers differently

Distractions come in many forms and affect drivers differently. Your drivers might be hungry, tired, have passengers in the car, or be dealing with noise or visual distractions. Each of these can compete for their attention, impacting their ability to focus on driving.

How well do your drivers know what distracts them and how can they avoid these distractions from arising?

Read more: Drive into the holidays… safely!

Learn how to eliminate the distractions

Here's a more optimistic note: it's possible to learn how to be less distracted while driving.

You can reduce risk by helping your drivers identify what distracts them the most and working to eliminate those distractions.

Understanding the dangers of phone use and practicing techniques to stay focused can help them stay present behind the wheel.


Support your drivers

Driving is a complex task that requires your drivers' full attention. By helping them to be aware of and mitigate distractions, you can significantly improve their safety and the safety of others on the road. Encourage your drivers to stay focused and drive safe!

Looking to tackle distraction? We have a module about distraction and inattention that helps drivers take a comprehensive look at the different types of distractions and the ways we can learn to deal with them better. Learn more about our training modules here.

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