Student driver propensity to engage with distractions – a self-report survey

Terry C. Lansdown, Elliot J. Kovanda, Liam Spence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


This paper reports a survey of engagement with, and ratings of, driver distraction, for undergraduate student drivers. Survey data was collected using an anonymous online questionnaire. 530 respondents contributed to the survey during a seven-year data collection period.

Results indicate that the three internal-to-vehicle behaviours rated as most distracting when driving were ‘writing text messages’, ‘internet use’, and ‘reading text messages’. The three most frequently undertaken distractions were, ‘(interactions with) adults’, ‘daydreaming’, and ‘eating, drinking or smoking’. Considering external-to-vehicle distractions, the top three rated were ‘environmental conditions’, ‘unexpected objects or events’, and ‘animals behaving unexpectedly’; while the most frequently experienced external distractions were ‘people (behaving normally), ‘busy roads’ and ‘official signage’. Some evidence was found that internal-to-vehicle distractions were relatively more distracting than external-to-vehicle ones, along with limited findings showing significant variation in the amount of engagement with distractions over time. Significant predictive models for engagement with distraction were calculated (for both work-related and non-work-related driving) and found to be broadly in agreement with previous research, although accounting for less variance in the models. Significantly greater engagement with distractions was found during non-work-related driving, when compared to work-related.

The data present a picture of ongoing and substantial engagement with distracting behaviours for this population over the data collection period. For example, on a daily or weekly basis, more than three-fifths of respondents reported willingness to read text messages with the vehicle in motion; while just under half indicated that they typically write text messages in the same circumstances. However, the findings do offer some promise that interventions targeted towards non-work-related driving behaviours may be effective to reduce volitional engagement with distractions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)650-660
Number of pages11
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Early online date13 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Attention
  • Distraction
  • Driver
  • Survey
  • Young

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Applied Psychology


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