|Abstract:||The driver is a vital part of the traffic system and the main reason for the occurrence of traffic accidents, as the vast majority of causes of critical traffic situations can be found on the driver’s side. Distractions affecting the driver while driving are an increasing problem. When receiving information about the traffic environment and events, visual attention is the most critical channel for obtaining relevant information, so the distractions that affect the drivers’ visual perception or processing of visual information are the most important in terms of ensuring and maintaining driving safety.
The main goal of the doctoral thesis was to analyse and compare 15 potential visual distractions of the driver that occur inside the vehicle. This filled a research gap, which was mainly based on the lack of research that would allow for mutual comparison of the impact of visual attention distractions on the same people and which would simultaneously compare a broader set of distractions within the vehicle using the same methodology. The research was carried out by designing and conducting a field experiment based on the findings of an extensive review of the literature, where we exposed 23 participating drivers to 15 distractions inside the vehicle related to mobile phone use (hands-free or handheld), setting up or operating systems in the car and finding specified thing inside the vehicle. At the same time, we recorded their field of vision and determined their gaze direction with an eye tracking device. In this way, after processing the data on gaze directions while driving, we obtained metrics that describe the visual attention of drivers and include information on their glances and fixations as well as the direction of gaze. Based on statistical analyses, the results were interpreted in the light of safe driving, traffic safety and implications for transport in general.
The main result of the dissertation is the fact that the visual attention of drivers is most distracted by activities inside the car, which they usually perform without thinking about the consequences and relate mainly to setting up systems inside the car. The longest percentage of glances and fixations away from areas important for driving occurred in the tasks of setting the temperature on the air conditioning system, inputting an address into the navigation system and setting the radio frequency. In all tasks, there was tunnelling of the gaze direction through the windshield along the horizontal axis compared to the control segment of the drive, and in most tasks also along the vertical axis. The tasks that are the most problematic from the point of view of distracting visual attention away from the windshield as a key area for monitoring the traffic environment and events are the tasks of using a mobile phone, which require visual interaction with the device, and tasks involving setting up systems within the car. Reading and sending an SMS message and viewing a video on a mobile phone, setting up the navigation system and radio, and adjusting the side mirrors are at the forefront. In these tasks, the ranking showed a clear placement among the most problematic of the 15 tasks encountered by drivers during testing, and also in these tasks, drivers looked at the windshield less than 30% of the time of the entire task.
The results of the research show that in addition to the distractions inside the vehicle that we all know, an equivalent or even more significant problem in terms of affecting the driver’s visual attention to the traffic environment and events are those distractions and activities that are not usually considered potentially dangerous and are not highlighted in various educational campaigns. This is particularly relevant in the field of professional drivers, as they are exposed to a greater range of in-vehicle distractions during their work due to the nature of the work and equipment they use and are more often influenced by other distractions.|