Pre-conference workshop

A Systems Approach to the Management of Driver Distraction


Welcome to join the pre-conference workshop, hosted by Dr Matin Nabavi Niaki , Road Safety & Design Project Manager, Austroads and Emeritus Professor Michael Regan, Research Centre for Integrated Transport Innovation (rCITI), School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. University of NSW Sydney, October 22, 10:00-11:30AM!

Driver distraction remains a persistent road safety challenge worldwide, stemming from the complex interplay of various elements within the road transport system: vehicle design, user behaviour, environmental factors, road infrastructure, social dynamics, and psychological and cognitive aspects. Consequently, addressing this issue requires collaboration among stakeholders from diverse fields, including road safety authorities, automotive engineering, urban planning, transport engineering, public health, policymaking, enforcement, human-computer interaction, cognitive science, and human factors expertise.

Traditionally viewed as solely a behavioural issue, driver distraction demands a broader systems perspective. While initiatives aimed at user behaviour, such as awareness campaigns and law enforcement on mobile phone use, have been implemented, they cannot fully mitigate the complex nature of distraction, as it is targeted towards only one aspect: the user.

The objective of this workshop is to introduce a systems perspective on the issue of driver distraction: one that recognises the complex interplay of factors that create distraction, the key stakeholders involved in managing it as a road safety issue, and the range of countermeasure options available to responsible stakeholders in the system.

Through interactive surveys and discussions, participants, from government, academics, and industry, will work towards recognizing and addressing the systemic nature of driver distraction within the road traffic system. The workshop is therefore targeted at all stakeholders who have a role and interest in driver distraction.


Driver distraction is an intractable road safety problem, in most parts of the world. Estimates of its role in serious and fatal crashes vary across jurisdictions, due to differences in the ways in which is detected, defined and coded. But it is widely accepted that it is a serious road safety problem, and that it has escalated in scale with the proliferation of new technologies and software applications that can be carried into vehicles, or are built into vehicles, and interacted with by drivers.

Driver distraction has traditionally been approached as a behavioural issue in road safety, prompting initiatives targeting mobile phone use. However, it is a complex issue stemming from interactions between different elements of the road transport system, including vehicle human-machine interaction (HMI) design, mobile device design, driver behaviour, environmental factors such as billboards and commercial signs, the design of roadside infrastructure, and social and psychological influences, such as mental health and social media, further compound the issue.

While existing countermeasures have been to some extent effective in eliminating/reducing the occurrence/severity of distraction-related crashes, more effective management and mitigation of driver distraction as a road safety problem requires a systems perspective that recognises the complex interplay of factors involved, and the range of countermeasure options available to all stakeholders in the system to effectively address these factors.

In 2022 Austroads, the association of Australian and New Zealand transport agencies, commissioned the development of an “Implementation Guide” (Austroads 2024), prepared in response to a commitment in Australia’s National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 to implement a National Driver Distraction Roadmap (Department of Transport and Main Roads 2020).

The developed Implementation Guide will form the basis of this workshop to emphasizes a need for understanding the complex interplay of factors involved. Through an interactive survey and discussion, experts and driver distraction enthusiasts will be engaged in laying out a path to move forward in tackling the issue of driver distraction.

The Guide outlines a structured methodology for the management of driver distraction, including problem definition, current state assessment, a forward work program (that defines countermeasure domains and practical countermeasure options), and engagement with various stakeholders. By advocating for collaboration, innovation, ongoing monitoring and evaluation, the Guide offers a holistic approach to prevent distraction-related crashes and injuries. Addressing all key elements that influence driver distraction is consistent with the theme of DDI 2024 – “Advances in the Understanding and Management of Distraction and Inattention for all Road Users”.

The specific objectives of this workshop are to:

  • Introduce participants to the Australian Implementation Guide, and its different stages (presentation).
  • Invite participants to map out a systems perspective outline of driver distraction (first interactive part).
  • Compile and present participant’s view from the interactive part and present it in combination with the Implementation Guide’s outline of driver distraction (presentation).
  • Identify, through survey and discussion, specific countermeasure options that, from research evidence, have been found through evaluation to be effective in preventing distraction-related behaviours, crashes, and injuries (second interactive part).
  • Identify and discuss barriers to the implementation of the processes and countermeasure options contained within the Implementation Guide (open discussion).

Target Audience
The target audience for this workshop is all stakeholders who have a role and interest in the issue of driver distraction, including:

  • transport safety authorities
  • automotive engineers
  • urban planners
  • transport engineers
  • public health officials
  • policy makers
  • enforcement officials
  • human-computer interaction designers
  • cognitive scientists
  • human factors expert

Workshop Format and Structure

The workshop will take 90 minutes and consist of six parts. First, an introductory presentation will be given on the background of driver distraction and the Implementation Guide. Then, an interactive part involves a short icebreaker, and participants will have a discussion in groups to map out a systems perspective of the driver distraction issue. A presentation on the Driver Distraction Roadmap developed in Australia is presented. The second interactive activity invites groups to come up with countermeasures and approaches to manage and reduce driver distraction for all stakeholder levels mentioned in the Implementation Guide. A final discussion is carried out where all groups share their approaches, countermeasures, and barriers to eliminating driver distraction. Approaches from the Implementation Guide are also discussed. The workshop is concluded with a short presentation summarising and closing the session.

Expected Outcomes

By the end of the workshop, participants will:

    • Understand and appreciate the holistic approach needed to prevent distraction-related crashes and injuries.
    • Consider the complex interplay of different stakeholders in creating and implementing countermeasures for the prevention of distraction-related crashes and injuries.
    • Establish connections with other driver distraction experts and enthusiasts.
    • Create momentum in the distracted driving community to approach the issue from a systems perspective.

Registration: You sign up for the workshop during the conference registration process. Please note that the workshop is limited to a maximum of 30 participants.

Cost: Please note that there is an additional cost for participating in the workshop. The cost is $100.

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