Driving Psychology (Psych 409a); November 25, 2006

Are Driving Skills Important?

By: Kasey Vanderhoof



Instructions for this activity are found at:


Instructor: Dr. Leon James



Peter Rothe, Editor (2002). Driving Lessons: Exploring Systems That Make Traffic Safer. (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press). Reviewing pages 211-230.


Driver Skill

1.      What is Skill?

a.      A learned ability to perform some task effectively and efficiently

b.      Driving researchers and educators argue that a complex skill and say this is why he need to take driving more seriously

                                                  i.      Non-experts say that driving seems as simple and natural as walking

c.       Driving skills

                                                  i.      Making the car go, keeping it between the lines and stopping before hitting anything are individually master quickly

                                                ii.      Smooth integration of control skills take much longer

d.      Driving skills are learned in different degrees

                                                  i.      Some drivers may learn some skill easier and quicker than other drivers

e.      Some skills such as emergency handling are rarely needed and may not be learned very well since they are rarely used.

2.      Basic Human Capacities Underlying Driving Skill

a.      Driving skills are built on a broad foundation of basic human abilities

b.      Driving demands may exceed a drivers mental capacity at any given time

                                                  i.      Drivers may not be able to comprehend everything that is going on

c.       General abilities underlying driving skills may be trainable

3.      Looking for the Whole Driver

a.      Driving places high demands on people

                                                  i.      There is no equally comprehensive model of driving that would explain how we are able to meet all the demands place on drivers

b.      Experienced drivers, as a group, have important skill advantages

                                                  i.      They are better able to:

1.      control and distribute attention

2.      automate and integrate the various simple psychomotor-control skills

3.      extract the full richness of the information available from the environment

4.      detect and recognize hazards at a safe distance

5.      make driving decisions quickly under pressure

c.       Research findings indicate that weaknesses in the basic driving skills cause at least some of the crashes involving new drivers

4.      A Taxonomic Model of Driving and Driver Skill

a.      Knowledge

                                                  i.      Consists of a wide range of information stored in both long-term and short-term memory

                                                ii.      It includes rules and principles, scripts, schemata, performance routines, recognition templates and expectations

                                              iii.      It builds up continuously as drivers receive instruction and experience driving in the system

                                              iv.      It might be useful to think of knowledge as the content or raw material used by the cognitive and mental skills

b.      Attention

                                                  i.      Includes states of vigilance, alertness and mental arousal, essential the “internal” predisposition to interact with the environment

                                                ii.      It directs and focuses searching, scanning and noticing, and it determines how our limited supply of mental processing capacity will be allocated

c.       Detection

                                                  i.      Primarily involve visual searching, scanning and noticing things that are relevant

                                                ii.      Our senses are built to detect change and contrast

d.      Perception

                                                  i.      Consists of mental organizing and processing of patterns of data from the senses, turning data into information

                                                ii.      Results in the recognition and identification of potential hazards, opportunities and other relevant information

                                              iii.      Is influenced by cognitive knowledge, experience, and expectations

e.      Evaluation

                                                  i.      We evaluate something after we perceive it

                                                ii.      Our evaluation of a situation will determine how we act in certain situations

                                              iii.      Is influenced by knowledge, in the sense that rules and principles are needed to predict outcomes and are built up mainly from experience

                                              iv.      Becomes virtually automatic and unconscious for routine driving

f.        Decision

                                                  i.      Given a particular situation evaluation, final authority for action (or inaction) rests with the driver’s decision skills, which weigh the optional courses of action, selecting and timing responses

g.      Motor skills

                                                  i.      Drivers must have a certain amount of traditional perceptual-motor skill to execute an intended action properly

                                                ii.      More critical, and requiring more practice, is the integration of the basic skills into smooth, coordinated, simultaneous automatic operation

h.      Imagination

                                                  i.      The amount of safety depends on ones ability to imagine what will happen

1.      this is the result of higher-order mental skill processes that takes place at some time before any obvious hazard or risky situation has occurred

                                                ii.      It is in effect a preparatory response for possible situations and scenarios that cannot yet be see but must be imagined

                                              iii.      It is an abstract mental skill

i.        Motivation

                                                  i.      The internal affective of emotional force compelling the individual to seek satisfaction of personal needs

                                                ii.      It consists of the appetite, drives, emotions, and utility-maximizing efforts that energize behavior and direct choices

                                              iii.      Comes from within and is driven by personal needs or norms and the need to reduce uncertainty

                                              iv.      May also be driven by external forces such as incentives and disincentives as well as more social and cultural forces such as active caring for the welfare of others

                                                v.      It activates and directs behavior toward the immediate objectives

j.        Responsibility

                                                  i.      The driver’s top cognitive management, a sort of rational executive process focused on the highest level goals and values

                                                ii.      Based on the values and internalized norms that influence individual motivation and character, as well as ethical, pro-social conduct

                                              iii.      Helps energize and direct behavior toward goals beyond the personal and immediate, requiring  a commitment to helping meet social objectives beyond those of the individual

5.      How Important is Driving Skill?

a.      Improving driving skills may be necessary but not sufficient for improved safety, because situational factors, motives and higher-level driver skills are clearly important

b.      If crashes result from what drivers choose as much as from what they are able or unable to do, we must consider a whole hierarchy of driver skills, ranging from “simple” control to coordination of controls, through a range of higher mental skills, perceptual, cognitive, and “meta-cognitive”

6.      Driver Skill and Preparation in the Future

a.      Driving skills are important in order to keep up with the technological advances that today’s society are coming up with

                                                  i.      These technologies include but are not limited to

1.      cell phones

2.      in car computers

3.      navigations systems

4.      in car DVD player

5.      and many more



  1. Driving Skills
    1. http://www.drivingskillsforlife.com/
    2. This website teaching people driving skills.  It goes beyond what people learn in drivers education and is aimed more towards new drivers.  This website offers videos to watch as well as exercises.
  2. Driving Skills in Older People
    1. http://familydoctor.org/487.xml
    2. This website talks about the driving skills of older people.  It talks about the signs to look for concerning when an elderly person should stop driving.  It also talks about why a person should stop driving.
  3. Driving Tactics
    1. http://www.drivingtactics.com/
    2. This website gives you some interesting tactics that you can use to help you to prevent an accident.  They say that these tactics could even save you life as well as the lives of your loved ones.  It gives you situations and the tactics you can use to prevent an accident.


My homepage: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leon/409af2006/vanderhoof/vanderhoof-home.htm

Class Homepage: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy25/classhome-g25.htm