What is diverted attention?
Diverted attention includes a range of activities where drivers’ attention is directed away from safe driving, towards competing events, objects or people, inside or outside the vehicle. ‘Attention diverted by’ is largely synonymous with distraction. Regan, Lee and Young (2008) have defined distraction as “the diversion of attention away from activities critical for safe driving, towards a competing activity.”), and in the Crash Analysis System covers activities such as:
- talking with passengers
- using cell phones
- eating and drinking
- reaching or searching for objects in the vehicle
- adjusting vehicle controls
- adjusting the radio/in-vehicle entertainment system
- dealing with pets or animals in the vehicle
- being emotionally upset/angry
- looking at scenery or advertising
- watching or looking at other traffic or people
- searching or looking for a location/intersection or specific place
- being dazzled by sun-strike or headlights and taking action in response (such as adjusting sun-visor)
- looking at other activity/events outside of the vehicle.
It is difficult to identify whether a driver’s attention has been diverted in an incident or crash. International research suggests that the contribution of diverted attention in crashes may be under-represented in police-reported crash systems (Gordon, 2009). This crash factsheet provides a summary of the information contained within the New Zealand police-reported crash system.
‘Diverted attention’ refers to a series of codes within the Crash Analysis System (CAS) grouped under the heading ‘Attention diverted by’. Additional definitions including those for casualties, fatal, serious and minor injuries are in the Glossary.