Inattention, Distraction and Fatigue (Completed)

The safe functioning of any vehicle depends on the driver's brain being fully engaged on the task of driving. This research programme is for projects that study factors which affect the level of attention a driver gives to their driving.

AAA & NZAA Distracted Driving Project - Driver Cellphone Use (2018-2020)

This research was led by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) with support from the NZAA Research Foundation. Research surveys included New Zealand participants and the results of the research are shared here.

The research has been used to create an online e-learning website to help drivers better understand the risk of using cellphones and commit to safer ways to use them while driving. This online tool is available via the NZAA's association with youth charity Students Against Dangerous Driving (SADD). Although SADD is promoting the tool, it is useful for drivers of all ages, not just young drivers.

Drive In The Moment - learn about your personal cellphone risk & develop a plan to better manage your cellphone use while driving.


About the research

The first stream of research was exploratory and set out to understand the who, what, when, where, how and why of smartphone use while driving. With smartphones becoming more advanced and integrated with the car, it sought to identify in what ‘new’ ways phones are being used and how often. The research also set out to see if phone use out of the car could be linked to behaviour in the car and what role ‘addiction’ could be playing. Commissioned by the AAA and the NZAA, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (CARRS-Q) started with 10 focus groups with a total of 30 young drivers in Australia. They followed this up by administering two online surveys in Australia and New Zealand, at two time points a week apart, giving a total sample of 1,289 participants.

The second stream of research attempted to build a picture of crash risk associated with smartphone use while driving compared to other well-established risky driving behaviours. To do this, CARRS-Q surveyed 32 international road safety experts in 13 countries working in universities, the government, public and not-for-profit sectors. The third stream of research involved the development of an evidenced-based benchmarking tool in the form of an online survey that can be tailored for deployment by mobility clubs worldwide. It builds on learnings from the original surveys in the first stream of research and suggests ways that this tool may be adapted to complement existing benchmarking tools.

Drive In The Moment – a summary of the AAA Distracted Driving project

Young New Zealand Drivers – Addendum 2 to Final Report for Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), from the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) Distracted Driving project

Presentation of research results

AAA Research Report - Technical Summary

AAA Research Report - Comparative Analysis

Inattention, distraction and fatigue programme (2011-2013)

Expert Steering Group

  • Assoc Professor Jude Charlton - Monash University, Melbourne
  • Assoc Professor Robert Isler - Waikato University, Traffic and road safety research group
  • Cate Quinn - New Zealand Transport Agency
  • Cameron Bayley - Accident Compensation Corporation
  • Dr Jared Thomas - Opus Central Laboratories
  • Karen Dickson - AA Driver Training

Stage One

"Staying focused at the wheel" Research Symposium

Stage Two - Literature Review & Scoping Study

A literature review and scoping study was completed in November 2013, which examined an experimental design for running a Naturalistic Driving Study in New Zealand on driver attention issues. It focussed on novice drivers - ie. those beginning to drive solo on a restricted licence.

Scoping study and literature review 

While the scoping study demonstrated that such a study was possible, using current methods it was prohibitively expensive.

The AA Research Foundation therefore decided that it would monitor capture and processing technology. If a more economic option and/or potential funding partners become available, the Foundation will consider pursuing a NDS.


AA position on driving distractions and fatigue

Read about the AA's views on inattention, distraction and fatigue:

Staying focused and alert when driving

Page last updated: December 2020

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