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Drivers’ attitudes, awareness and knowledge about driver distractions: Research from two central Sydney communities.

Baker, S, Spina, K, Faulks, I, Regan, M, Stevenson, M, Brown, J, Porter, A, Irwin, J D

Driver Risk & Behaviour

ACRS conference 2005

The issue of driver distraction is an emerging one. As new technologies become available for use in motor vehicles its importance as a road safety issue, in Australia, will increase. The role of distraction in road crashes is only just beginning to be explored and to date only a small amount of research has been conducted (Young & Regan, this monograph).

Research conducted (Brown, Horberry, Anderson, Regan & Triggs, 2003; Young, Regan & Hammer, 2003) shows there is evidence that in vehicle sources of distraction are capable of degrading driving performance and compromising safety. Driver distraction must be viewed as a legitimate road safety issue and drivers attitudes to distraction need to be further explored and road safety campaigns implemented.

Given the increased risk and high prevalence of crashes associated with distraction demonstrated in overseas studies (Cooper, Zheng, Richard, Vavrik, Heinrichs & Siegmund, 2003; Direct Line Insurance, 2002; Thuilin & Gustafsson, 2004), and given the effects of distraction on driving performance, there is reason to believe that distraction is a significant contributing factor in crashes in Australia.

In the City of Sydney there has been an increase in lane deviation accidents over the last four years. This has occurred as we have seen a reduction in overall accidents and an increase in ownership of mobile phones. Research indicates lane deviation accidents have been directly related to a driver engaging in a distracting behaviour.

Many studies have been conducted (Brown et al. 2003, Young et al., 2003) that show distractions such as making a phone call, conducting a mobile phone conversation, conducting a complex conversation and tuning a radio/ changing a CD all lead to a significant increase in the number of situations in which the person failed to respond appropriately in the road environment in a timely manner.

It is possible there is a lack of awareness among the community of the research literature linking driver distraction with degraded driving performance and the types of distracting behaviour that can impact on driving performance and driver safety.

This paper focuses on the research results obtained from drivers in two central Sydney communities on their attitudes, awareness and knowledge about driver distractions.