Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

English (en)

'Driver Inattention and Distraction' as Cause of Accident: How Do Drivers Behave in Cars? (SVI2007/007)


'Driver Inattention and Distraction' as Cause of Accident: How Do Drivers Behave in Cars? (SVI2007/007)
Original Language Title: 
Unfallursache 'Unaufmerksamkeit und Ablenkung': Was macht der Mensch am Steuer?

Background & policy context: 

According to accident statistics, at least every fifth accident involving personal injury in Switzerland is caused by ‘Driver Inattention and Distraction.’ But up to now, it is unclear what this exactly is. For this reason data-based prevention measures cannot be planned.

With an eye to the prevention of accidents that are attributable to the most frequent cause of accidents in Switzerland this research project seeks to determine what categories of ‘Driver Inattention & Distraction’ should be distinguished, and how frequently these categories occur in Swiss road traffic. This would create the first nation-wide survey of causes of Driver Inattention & Distraction in actual road traffic. By examining these data in connection with national and international accident statistics and with experimental studies, conclusions can be drawn about the accident risk associated with the individual categories of Driver Inattention & Distraction.


The goal of this research project is to clarify the following questions:

  • What exactly is Driver Inattention and Distraction (I&D), and what forms can it assume?
  • What is the frequency of the different forms of I&D in road traffic in Switzerland?
  • What accident risks are associated with the different forms of I&D?

The project was developed in the following steps:

  1. Literature, Internet and statistic analysis
  2. Data collection tools
  3. Test Phase
  4. Data collection
  5. Evaluation, Recommendations

The data were collected using mini video cameras in cars and coded using a category system that was developed based on national and international accident statistics and studies. For each trip, additional data were gathered, such as type of road. The data were complemented by a survey that was capture categories of I&D that cannot be tapped audio-visually and also general characteristics not dependent on the particular trip, such as gender and type of automobile.

Institution Type:
Institution Name: 
Swiss Government: State Secretariat for Education and Research
Key Results: 

"Inattention and distraction" at the wheel is the most common cause of accidents in Switzerland. The phenomenon is very nonspecific and it is not clear what is included and what is not.

  • The study therefore developed a theoretically sound and practicable system of categories of "Inattention and distraction".
  • The study developed a survey methodology, with which the frequency of occurrence and duration of "Inattention and distraction" in each category at individuals in Switzerland is levied accurately. The frequencies can be evaluated according to various criteria (eg. age, type of vehicle, type of road, etc.).
  • The study estimates what is the risk of accidents in "Inattention and distraction" categories.


Research organisation: Swiss Federal Roads Office
Road Networks division
Secretariat for road Research
Mühlestrasse 2, Ittigen
CH-3003 Bern
+41 (0)58 463 80 03 (Information)

Contact person:
Jürg Artho
Universität Zürich
Binzmühlestrasse 14 / Box 15
CH-8050 Zürich
044 635 72 75

Contact Name: 
Artho Jürg
Contact Email: 
Universität Zürich Sozialforschungsstlle
Binzmühlestrasse 14 / Box 15
Contact country:
044 635 72 75