12th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, San Francisco, November 2005.


This paper discusses the various issues concerned with the precise definition of the term driver distraction. There has been growing interest in driver distraction in the research community due to the development of information and communication technologies for concurrent use whilst driving. Concern has been raised that such technologies may lead to an increase in accidents. In order to reliably monitor the driver distraction problem it is essential that cross study comparisons can be made. This is made difficult due to the lack of a comprehensive definition of the term. This paper reviews those definitions available in the literature and examines the necessary components of a reliable definition with support from accident statistics in a database of work-related road traffic accidents in the Midlands area of the UK. It is found that driver distraction should be discussed in terms of four components: the difference between distraction and inattention; the recognition that distraction can be internal and external to the vehicle; that distraction can be categorised into four types; and, the effect of distraction on the driving task. Finally, a proposed, comprehensive definition for driver distraction is provided along with other conclusions.

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