Nav: Home

How much attention do drivers need to pay?

November 18, 2016

If it were possible to determine exactly what constitutes inattention while driving, it might be possible to detect inattention before bad things happen. That's critically important in light of advances in automated transportation and perhaps one of the potential outcomes of a new theory of driver distraction from researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute. In their recent Human Factors paper, "Minimum Required Attention: A Human-Centered Approach to Driver Inattention," Katja Kircher and Christer Ahlstrom looked at the limitations of existing definitions of driver inattention and formulated MiRA, or "minimum required attention."

MiRA considers whether or not the driver - who is only one part of the larger traffic system - is maintaining situation awareness in the driving context; in other words, visually attending to and acting on the minimum amount of information from the environment necessary for safe driving. It takes into consideration human factors such as drivers' ability to adjust pace and location, balance goals such as efficiency and perceived risk, and use spare capacity (available reaction time) to attend to targets (traffic signals, pedestrians, etc.) that don't pose a risk.

Many of the 50 or so extant definitions of driver distraction suffer from hindsight bias; that is, they identify distraction after the fact. Kircher notes, "with MiRA, the idea is to define the distraction criteria beforehand. Those criteria are based on areas in the driving environment in which certain information has to be sampled [viewed] a minimum number of times for safe operation of the vehicle. For example, driving on a curvy country road at a certain speed requires a certain minimum frequency of glances ahead to stay on the road. We can then investigate whether or not the drivers fulfill these requirements. In this way, we are able to check their behavior in real time instead of having to wait for a crash."

Kircher and Ahlstrom note that although MiRA is primarily a contribution to the theoretical discussion about driver distraction, it has the potential to be put into operation. With more study, it might be possible to define prototypical driving situations and minimum information-sampling requirements, measure when and how a driver samples information, and, finally, determine whether or not a driver has fulfilled the requirements to optimize safety.

MiRA represents a new perspective on driver inattention and allows "a differentiation between issues related to the traffic system and the driver's responsibility."

As for next steps, Kircher notes, "Our goal now is to apply the theory systematically in our empirical work. Two projects on drivers' and cyclists' attention in an urban environment will provide the first opportunity to do so."
To request a copy of "Minimum Required Attention: A Human-Centered Approach to Driver Inattention" for media-reporting purposes, contact HFES Communications Director Lois Smith (, 310/394-1811). The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is the world's largest scientific association for human factors/ergonomics professionals, with more than 4,500 members globally. HFES members include psychologists and other scientists, designers, and engineers, all of whom have a common interest in designing systems and equipment to be safe and effective for the people who operate and maintain them. "Human Factors and Ergonomics: People-Friendly Design Through Science and Engineering."

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

Related Driving Articles:

Following a friend leads to unsafe driving behavior
A new study inspired by a court case involving a driver seriously hurt in an accident when following another car to a destination, provides evidence to show that the car behind makes risky driving maneuvers.
It's still a bad idea to text while driving even with a head-up display
Advances in wearable technology offer new possibilities for in-vehicle interaction but also present new challenges for managing driver attention and regulating device use in vehicles.
A new way of assessing winter driving conditions and associated risks
A new study, published today in the Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, presents a risk-based approach for classifying the road surface conditions of a highway network under winter weather events.
Less driving linked to a decrease in roadway fatalities
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that a significant decrease in automobile travel from 2003-2014 correlated with a decrease in the number of crash deaths, with the largest reduction among young men.
Expectation versus reality in the acceptance of self-driving cars
New research on public acceptance of automated vehicles reveals that drivers' perceptions depend on how realistic a picture they have of the current technology's capabilities.
Program helps teens 'get the message' about distracted driving
A program to educate teens about distracted driving -- including a tour of a hospital trauma center and testimony from a trauma survivor -- can increase awareness of the dangers of texting, cell phone use, and other distractions while driving, reports a study in the Journal of Trauma Nursing, official publication of the Society of Trauma Nurses.
The self-driving microscope
Researchers develop a combination of software and hardware for adaptive live imaging of large living organisms.
Pedestrians walk freely in a world of self-driving cars
Imagine an urban neighborhood where most of the cars are self-driving.
Driving, dementia -- assessing safe driving in high-risk older adults
Driving is a very complex process. Today, almost half of all drivers on the roadways are over the age of 65.
What's driving the next generation of green products?
If you purchased a Toyota Prius, you may have been driven by the desire to conserve the environment or to save yourself some money at the gas pump.

Related Driving Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...