https://despatch.blog.gov.uk/2016/11/17/becoming-a-better-driver-live-interview-on-periscope-with-dr-lisa-dorn/

Becoming a better driver: interview with Dr Lisa Dorn

Dr Lisa Dorn

Driving behaviour expert Dr Lisa Dorn answered your questions live on Periscope about becoming a better driver on Thursday 24 November 2016.

Lisa is the Associate Professor in Driver Behaviour at Cranfield University and also the author of  ‘The DVSA Guide to Better Driving’.

Lisa doesn't work for DVSA, and her views don't necessarily reflect DVSA or government policy.

Tim:
Thank you for joining us for this live video interview with Dr Lisa Dorn. My name is Tim, and I’m your host for today. And Lisa, thank you for your time.

Lisa:
It’s a pleasure

Tim:
Would you like to say hello to everyone?

Lisa:
Hi everybody.

Tim:
This is the second Periscope live video we’ve done at DVSA - we’re still learning, so please do bear with us if you're tuning in!

Now, Lisa is the author of the official DVSA guide to better driving.

Lisa, while people are still joining us, could you just take a minute to tell us a bit more about yourself, and what an Associate Professor of Driver Behaviour does?

Lisa:
Ok, well my career in driver behaviour began in the mid 1980s with my PhD in the topic at the Aston University and since then I’ve worked at several universities and in 2001 I became director of the driving research group at Cranfield University and we manage a team there looking at all aspects of driver behaviour.

Tim:
Perfect. Thanks Lisa, that’s really useful to know. We’ll now move on to the questions that have been coming in.

First question, John has asked, do you think the introduction of situational judgement or psychometric testing for learner drivers could help identify those who are more likely to drive irresponsibly, and therefore give their instructor more insight into how to teach them?

Lisa:
Ok so there’s 2 questions there, one is about situational judgement and it is the case, there’s evidence for this, that commentary driving, keeping you in the moment, looking at the hazards and anticipating what might happen is a good thing to do. And then the other question relates to psychometric testing, although I wouldn’t call it a testing I’d call it an assessment because you can’t really pass or fail psychometric assessment in that sense. And what that will do is to help to look at the strengths and weaknesses of you as a driver and that will help to develop your self awareness of the personal risks that you face.

Tim:
Perfect, second question has come in from Paul and he has asked if dashcams and cameras on helmets have helped modify driving behaviour in a positive way? He asks would you recommend using one and do you have any specific insights for motorcyclists?

Lisa:
Interesting question, whenever behaviour is being observed it responds, erm, people respond to that. So, people will be more conscious of how they react in situations where they could actually have that information captured and because there are potential consequences. So for motorcyclists wearing the cameras and cyclists it’s a great idea because then you’ve got some evidence where people are not responding very well to you.

Tim:
Ok, perfect. The third question has come in from Lisa, now she’s asked if self-driving cars will ever replace the apparent desire for humans to control our environment?

Lisa:
If self-driving cars will ever?

Tim:
Replace the apparent desire for humans to control our environment?

Lisa:
Probably not, because I think there will always be a desire to have freedom and control behind the wheel. So I suspect that in the future there would be cases where people will want to be in the environment and actually control and be free to drive in there own way.

Tim:
Ok, perfect and Sarah has also asked what do you think about listening to music while you’re driving?

Lisa:
Well there are some, there’s some evidence that people who listen to very loud music that it’s very distracting and it can actually encourage you to drive too fast. There’s other evidence that actually if you have gentle modulating music that it can actually make you feel tired. So you want something somewhere in between.

Tim:
Ok, perfect. Remember all the people watching, if you’ve got a question you can ask it now. We’ll go onto our next question which is from Chris. Now Chris works for a utility company with a large fleet of vehicles. They often have a problem with minor accidents (like driving into parked cars), and they believe the main cause for this is driver distraction; they’re often thinking of their next job or the job they’ve just done.

And he asks is there any techniques he can embed into their training to help their drivers to focus solely on their driving for their job?

Lisa:
Ok, so we know that distraction is one of the biggest factors in crashes. So in order to reduce the amount of distraction that a driver has they need to not only reduce distraction inside the vehicle but also what’s going on in their heads. And some of the issues there are to do with how the organisation’s set up the job and actually it’s the time pressure that their under that might actually lead to the distraction. So some of the best strategies you could use would be stress management strategies.

Tim:
Ok, perfect. Another question from Bill now he asks about the potential of introducing virtual reality into hazard perception training, what are your thoughts?

Lisa:
That would be a fully immersive environment, which I suspect would really help to embed some of the learning that you need and there is very little research in this field. There are some other studies in other areas but not in hazard perception and gathering experience through a virtual environment, so we really need to do that research.

Tim:
Ok, another question from Rob, there’s 3 related questions that are about in car technology. His first question, are you concerned at the amount of digital and tech equipment that are in cars these days such as satellite navigation ability phones connected by bluetooth? And he says do you think it’s irresponsible of car manufacturers to make it easier to interact online in a car? And what advice would you give a driver - particularly a novice - on how to cope with digital distractions?

Lisa:
Okay, so we know that novice drivers are particularly prone to distraction and the only thing that really works is to switch everything off. And, so what car manufacturers should be doing is really being a bit more responsible about introducing that technology. There is evidence in-fact that just an alert from your phone is sufficient to distract you, so turn off your phone before you take behind the wheel.

Tim:
Okay, another question which has just come in from Shaun. Now Shaun would like to develop an awareness project for members of staff who have a variety of driving roles. He says what’s the best way to include the essence of your book, the DVSA’s guide to better driving, in his project?

Lisa:
So, what he could do his homework, he could go through the book and pick out all the points that are relevant to his organisation and then create a classroom presentation and have very much an open interactive discussion about the topics that would help.

Tim:
Okay, another question which has come in from Drayton Drivers. Now they ask as cars get 'easier' to drive, have more systems to make them 'safer', are we becoming poorer drivers?

Lisa:
Now there is some evidence for that actually. There’s a process referred to in literature as ‘behavioural adaptation’ where people actually rely on the systems to tell them what to do. Plenty of evidence of people using sat navs and getting lost and following blindly through what it is the sat nav is telling them to do. So actually, yeah we really ought to become active as a driver rather than passive.

Tim:
Just to touch on the subject of sat navs, we’ve had some questions come in from Steven and RJ Beck. They’ve asked do you think people have become too over reliant on their sat navs? And, now that the government’s wisely tightened up on mobile phone use, what should they do about the equally distracting and potentially dangerous use of sat nav, particularly amongst younger people?

Lisa:
Yes, that is very difficult as there is no control over how this kind of technology is used in the vehicle. Really, what we do need to do is at the point of learning to drive, make sure that learners are aware of the dangers of using any form of technology whilst their driving and there’s plenty of evidence of how sat navs are extremely distracting.

Tim:
Yep, okay, we’ve had another question come in from Sarah Jane, now she says that your book touches on the subject of people becoming too ‘comfortable or relaxed’ when they’re driving, especially with their driving attitudes, this is especially true if they’ve been driving and had their license a couple of years. She asks what’s the best way to address this, or for people to address this issue.

Lisa:
Well you know the only real, positive benefit of of gathering these years of experience is to develop self reflective techniques and some of the things the book does is to give you some of those techniques on how to make sure you can really be honest with yourself on the things that you’re doing and how that can increase your risk.

Tim:
Perfect. Remember, to the audience, if you’ve got a question, feel free to ask it now. We’ve had another one come in from Robert, Geoff and Val. They’ve been discussing the ‘safety bubble’ and the intimidation caused by drivers who tailgate you. Now do you have any advice for people who have to deal with these sort of issues?

Lisa:
So, the safety margin that people accept is something that is specific to the individual. And, some people have a very low tolerance level for people driving close to them which can feel very intimidating and make them feel very anxious. It’s one of the major problems on the strategic road network, where people are tailgating, and it often leads to third party collisions. In terms of changing that safety bubble, it’s really a good idea to enforce the two second rule and that’s difficult because levels of road policing is really struggling.

Tim:
Ok, another question that has come in from Dan. Do you think people are genuinely aware of how many people are killed or seriously injured on our roads? Do they link road traffic incidents with mood, or are incidents seen as purely being the result of a failure to control the vehicle?

Lisa:
No I don’t think people are aware of the nature of the risk they run, in the way that they drive. I’m a big fan of where we have a notice at the side to explain how many casualties that have taken place on this particular road. Recent research has looked at the objective evaluation of risk and the subjective evaluation of risk and there is no correlation. People are just simply not aware of the risks that they run. So we need to increase that awareness and we can do that with dynamic variable road signs.

Tim:
Ok, so Sarah has asked what can you tell us about the effects of age and driving?

Lisa:
Ok, so there’s an interaction between the effects of age and driving. We know that when it comes to age, clearly younger drivers are at more risk, but also what we know when we compare the effects of age and experience, it is actually experience that matters most. So, you could be young but have actually acquired experience and therefore that would protect to some extent. So it’s all about how much practise you get and how much exposure you get to the potential situations you get risks, that your ability to respond appropriately increases.

Tim:
We’ve had a question come in from Olivia. Now she’s asked do you think the new drug-driving laws have made any difference to road safety?

Lisa:
Well, again it’s very difficult to say whether or not that’s the case. The jury is out on that. There… requires a high level of roads policing, and we know that those levels are not as high as they used to be.

Tim:
Ok, we’ve had another question come in from Alan. He’s asked if you could give people 3 the top tips from the Better Driving book, what would they be?

Lisa:
Ok, then I would say, be aware of yourself - you know, consider what your trigger points are. Think about - so that’s number one. Number 2 is think about what your motivations are when you’re driving, because those motivations are the ones that will dictate how you drive. Also think about the context of the journey. Think about what it is that you’re in there to do. Are you being distracted by what’s going on around you, what’s going on in the vehicle and so on. So, yeah, those are probably my top 3 tips.

Tim:
Ok, thank you very much. We’ve had a question come in from Carol. Now she’s asked what can you do if you're not confident on the motorway - even after extra lessons. Are there any tips you can share?

Lisa:
That’s a difficult one. I think that what you have to really think about is the times… well, number one, what is causing the lack of confidence? What is it? Is it the trucks? Is it the weather? Is it the speed of the vehicles around you? And then think of a time when actually all those things were happening and you were actually confident. And develop your ability to reflect on those occasions and bring that into the occasion when you are actually trying to drive on the motorway.

Tim:
Ok, we’re just waiting for a few more questions to come in. We’ve just had one come in from Jane. Now she’s heard of the danger of microsleeps when driving. What are they, and how can we prevent them?

Lisa:
Ok, so microsleeps are literally seconds at which you fall into a deep sleep. The driver often isn’t aware that they’re in that zone. The relationship between microsleeps and people’s lifestyles are usually quite interlinked. So often it’s because of the poor-quality of sleep they get. So, be aware of having good sleep hygiene - so you go to the bed at the same sort time every night, you get up at the same sort of time in the morning. And you’re not being too relaxed. You need to keep levels of exercise quite high.

Tim:
Ok. We’ve had another question come in from Gordon. Now he’s asked about inattentional blindness, and what it is.

Lisa:
Interesting question - thank you Gordon! So inattentional blindness is really our capacity to process information outside a particular zone. So what tends to happen in cases of inattentional blindness is that our attention is captured when a particular hazard takes place, and so by being captured at that point, events that are going on in our periphery are not processed. So, really the way to combat that is to scan the environment regularly, and be aware of the fact that whenever our attention is captured, that we’re actually blind to what else is going on around us.

Tim:
Thank you very much. We’ve had a question come in from Bob. Now Bob asks, as a parent, how can I best help my son or daughter who’s learning to drive, and what advice might I give them?

Lisa:
Ok Bob. The best thing you can do is be a really good driver yourself, because we know that there is a strong link between how parents drive and how children drive. So if you’re tempted to speed, and you rationalise that with your child - say “Oh, it’s ok, I know what I’m doing” - then that kind of belief about your risk is going to get transferred. So if you’re a good safe, responsible driver, then you’ve got an increased chance of your child being the same too.

Tim:
Ok, perfect. We’ve had a question come in from Simon. Now he’s asked if there's any advice you can give to someone who is worried that an elderly parent is no longer fit to drive. And is there anything that they can say will get through to them?

Lisa:
Very difficult. Interestingly, most older people are very good at recognising when their faculties are failing. If you have a parent that doesn’t seem to be willing to acknowledge that their faculties are failing, then there really needs to be some focus on what it is that they can and can’t do, and how they can manage their risks better.

Tim:
Ok, we’ve had a question come in Rajan. Now he’s asked, how much do you think we influence our children when we’re driving? And he says, I’m thinking of their future driving behaviour.

Lisa:
Yes. Similar to earlier, we know that what the research has told is that there’s a strong link between the offences that parents commit and the offences that their children commit. So there is a very strong influence. And often, children like to look at the way in which their father drivers as a kind of an indication of how it should be. But actually, it’s better if you drive more like your mother, because mothers tend to be safer and more responsible. Sorry guys - but I can back that up with evidence.

Tim:
Ok, well I’m afraid that we’re now out of time today, but thank you everyone who has joined us.

As a little thank you to everyone who has watched this - either live or later - we’re giving a special 35% discount on the Official DVSA Guide to Better Driving, which Lisa is kindly showing now.

So it’ll cost £6.49. To claim the discount, and order your copy, simply visit www.safedrivingforlife.info, and use the discount code BD35. And that code will be valid until 31 December 2016.

We’ll make the video of this interview and a full transcript available on the Despatch blog as soon as possible.

So thank you again, Lisa.

Lisa:
It’s a pleasure.

Tim:
And from me. Goodbye.

Lisa:
Thank you.

12 comments

  1. Comment by robert craven posted on

    I have sent an e mail and would like this to be duplicated on this blog if possible Its regards to safe space and the change in drivers behaviour to adopt it and the benefits that it brings.

    • Replies to robert craven>

      Comment by Valerie Janitch posted on

      I may not have have understood Robert Craven's question when he refers to 'safe space', but safe space is something that bothers me too. I am a woman driver (sorry, can't help that!) and have been driving for nearly thirty years. When I am on clear roads with a 30 or 40mph speed limit, I always drive as fast as it is safely possible within that limit. But I find it very unnerving when other drivers (especially lorry and van drivers), insist on keeping so close behind me that I feel they are coming through my back screen. Instead of making me drive faster, it tends to slow me down in case I need to slow suddenly. It doesn't save anyone's time, but it could cause an accident.

      • Replies to Valerie Janitch>

        Comment by Frank posted on

        VALERIE. If other drivers follow too close the natural reaction is to drive faster. Of course this is the worst thing you can do as they will also drive faster and still be close ,so even more dangerous. The temptation is to drive slower but this would probably irritate them into doing something stupid ie overtake dangerously. The best thing is to keep an appropriate steady speed but gradually build up a bigger and bigger gap in front so that you have your stopping distance pius theirs , which gives you more chance of keeping them off your back if you have to stop. Also try not to be intimidated {easier said than done}.they may be deliberately trying to intimidate but are more likely to be totally unaware of the danger.

    • Replies to robert craven>

      Comment by Peter posted on

      I'm with you on this one Valerie except I'm being constantly 'tailgated' by the younger driver, male and female, (and this is fact and not an ageist comment), in cars and who seem oblivious to the speed limit and seriously lacking in patience. What's all this rushing about for I ask? Having said that, I also notice there are many younger drivers who are courteous, with savvy and obviously very competent drivers. Us oldies could probably learn a trick or two from them. Power to their elbow I say and well done them!

  2. Comment by Geoff posted on

    Hello ,take a look at IAM Roadsmarts guidance on safety bubbles

  3. Comment by Tony posted on

    What are the general thoughts on front and rear screen cameras, can these be a deterrent to poor and irresponsible drivers ?

  4. Comment by Maria posted on

    I am absolutely petrified that once the evening comes, a lot of drivers on our roads think it is ok to drive over the speed limit on 30 miles an hour roqds. They also do dangerous overtaking, will sound their horn if you don't make space for them, flash their lights and so on and so forth. I have been in situations where the car in the lane next to me turn right in front of my car to go in a different direction. Couldn't something be done about this sort of drivers? They are a public danger. Also, I do think more speed cameras should be put out there, and they should be working. The things some drivers do on the roads is a thing of nightmares.

  5. Comment by Colin posted on

    I think only a minority of drivers are road rage demons. However, a majority are inexperienced, have lost the values taught when they learned to drive, are caught up in this world of speed and urgency and simply at times lack consideration. Many people drive to get from A to B not because they enjoy motoring or have an interest in cars or travel. Bad driver behaviour intimidated us and can make us angry or upset. This in turn affects our own driving. So follow good driving principles on the road. Anticipate as we drive and if we feel in a difficult situation pull over, take a different route, stop and listen to some music or even try the bus a couple of days a week. And don't say I Can't!

  6. Comment by Rosaleen McCarthy posted on

    Just to add to Lisa's helpful comments -- inattentional blindness can happen in plain sight -- not just in the periphery of vision. There is one well known case where pilots (in a simulator) landed on top of another plane on the runway because they were focussed on a heads-up display and not the scene in front of them!
    The study of the invisible gorilla is another example of how attention can blind us http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/
    This kind of problem is possibly responsible for drivers missing cyclists and motorbikes when they are so keen on spotting gaps in oncoming traffic. Does Lisa have any other thoughts on how we can overcome these types of inbuilt limitation? Does commentary add to the cognitive load or overcome it?

  7. Comment by Andrew Fraser posted on

    It's probably impossible to make us better drivers - most of us don't seem to know how to park on the street - but government could do a lot more to help. There are cell phone management systems e.g. http://www.cu80.info/product.html#passenger and, with the OS digital map now available, can the government drag its feet over Intelligent Speed Assistance for much longer?
    Regarding tailgating, I find a quick turn round a roundabout useful technique ... 🙂

  8. Comment by william posted on

    why do manufacturers fit indicators when a lot of drivers do not use them at all!

  9. Comment by Chris Sedgwick posted on

    I'm not sure about dash cams. They might provide useful information to the Police in regards to a very serious crime but they're not interested in minor road crimes. Cameras might provide information to help settle an insurance claim as in the case of them being fitted to HGV's and bringing "cash for crash" criminals to justice. They have certainly provided hours of entertaining footage of bad driving which has been posted on youtube. But they also record the owners bad driving and their presence in a vehicle displays an unrealistic impression to others that the driver is a perfect driver and is out to record the bad habits of other less competent drivers or even goad them into doing something they might not normally do. Cameras don't record everything. They don't gather all the evidence. I'm not a perfect driver, I sometimes make mistakes and I wouldn't want them recorded. I learn from my mistakes and move on. I take ownership for my driving and am proud of it. All the others on the road are mostly outside my sphere of influence. I don't own a dash cam and won't be getting one.