A conceptual framework and taxonomy for understanding and categorizing driver inattention

  • Published: European Commission, 2013
  • Authors: Engström, J., Monk, C. A., Hanowski, R. J., Horrey, W. J., Lee, J. D., McGehee, D. V., & Yang, C. Y. D.
  • Date Added: 28 Mar 2015
  • Last Update: 28 Mar 2015
  • Format: html


This documents reports on the results of the Inattention Taxonomy project, which was carried out by the Driver Distraction & Human Machine Interaction (DD & HMI) Working Group, under the framework of the United States and European Union Bilateral Intelligent Transportation Systems Technical Task Force (US-EU Bilateral ITS TF), with the main objective being to define a conceptual framework and taxonomy of driver inattention.


A conceptual framework for driver attention was formulated in terms of a set of key principles. This framework was developed by the Driver Distraction Focus Group, which consisted of the Driver DD & HMI WG plus six US and EU experts.

The contributing project members were:

US: Chris Monk (NHTSA; co-chair of the DD & HMI WG), Eric Traube (NHTSA), David Yang (FHWA), Dan McGehee (University of Iowa), John Lee (University of Wisconsin), Rich Hanowski (Virginia Tech), Bill Horrey (Liberty Mutual)

EU: Johan Engström (Volvo; co-chair of the DD & HMI WG), Alan Stevens (TRL), Mike Regan (then at INRETS, now at University of New South Wales, Australia), Trent Victor (Volvo), Marko Tuukkanen (Nokia).

In addition, a Scandinavian mirror group linked to the SAFER competence centre in Gothenburg, Sweden, contributed to the project. The members of this group were Katja Kircher and Christer Ahlström (VTI), Fridulv Sagberg (TÖI) and Jonas Bärgman (Chalmers University of Technology).

Key Findings:

  • Based on this conceptual framework, a general taxonomy of driver inattention was developed.

  • Driver inattention was broadly divided into two general categories:

    • (1) insufficient attention and

    • (2) misdirected attention, relating to the activation and selective aspects of attention respectively.

  • For each of these categories, a set of sub-processes giving rising to them was defined.

  • The report ends with a discussion of some key implications of the proposed conceptual framework and inattention taxonomy, and how the taxonomy can be used for its intended applications.