What Factors Affect Perception While Driving?

G. Wiesen

There are a number of factors that can affect perception while driving, though among the most common are distractions, alcohol consumption, and sleepiness. Basic eyesight is one of the most important considerations for perception in terms of general vision and a possible need for corrective lenses. Distractions inside or outside of a vehicle can cause drivers to stop looking at the road while driving. Alcohol consumption has a number of effects on a driver, including reduced depth perception and limitations in perceiving moving objects. Sleepiness can also affect perception while driving and often leads to vehicular accidents due to reduced hazard perception and increased reaction time.

Consuming alcohol can have a negative impact on a driver's perceptions.
Consuming alcohol can have a negative impact on a driver's perceptions.

Perhaps the most important consideration regarding perception while driving is the actual visual acuity of a driver. A vision test is often required to receive a driver’s license in many areas, and this is used to ensure that drivers are able to properly see other vehicles and objects while driving. Use of corrective lenses is typically necessary for drivers who may have impaired vision, and hearing impairments may also be considered with regard to overall driving perception.

Distractions such as phone use can affect a person's perceptions.
Distractions such as phone use can affect a person's perceptions.

Distractions can have a tremendous impact on someone’s perception while driving. If a driver is looking at a passenger or in the mirror, then he or she has reduced perception of the road. Distractions both inside and outside of a vehicle should be considered dangerous, as anything that captures the attention of a driver can be detrimental to his or her general perception.

Alcohol has a extremely negative impact on a driver’s perception while driving. Studies have found that alcohol consumption can affect a person’s depth perception, which is crucial for a driver to be able to tell how far he or she is from other vehicles. Alcohol consumption also has an impact on a person’s ability to accurately perceive and distinguish objects that are still or in motion. This means that someone’s perception while driving under the influence of alcohol is limited as the driver may not be able to accurately gauge the position or movement of various objects.

Sleepiness can also have a detrimental impact upon a person’s perception while driving. Someone who falls asleep while driving loses a great deal of perception, since his or her eyes typically close and can no longer see the road. Even while awake and battling sleepiness, however, a driver may have his or her hazard perception reduced. This means that a driver who is sleepy can take longer to see and recognize a hazard in the road, which impacts his or her overall reaction time and makes it more difficult for the driver to avoid a hazard. General fatigue can also affect perception while driving, as someone may become more likely to lose focus or stare at one point in the road and become less aware of hazards or other vehicles.

Sleepiness can affect a person's perception while driving.
Sleepiness can affect a person's perception while driving.

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Discussion Comments


@SteamLouis-- I'm not too sure about fatigue but I know that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. So it basically impacts the function of all major functions in the body. This includes everything from heartbeat and breathing, to brain functions and use of sensory organs. Drinking and driving is the worst situation that someone can put themselves into. The body is not functioning normally under the influence of alcohol. That's why people tend to behave so differently after drinking. It's a loss of control and that's the last situation one ought to be in when driving. It's not just about the driver's life, it's also the lives of others on the road that are at risk.


Both fatigue and alcohol seem to reduce a driver's alertness. I think this is why perception is so badly affected. One needs to be alert while driving because really, the road is never predictable. Especially if the weather is bad, the chances of getting into an accident is high if vision and perception are poor.


Talking on the phone, having a conversation or just doing something else while driving can also affect our perception.

The human mind does not have a limitless capacity when it comes to processing information. For example, we can't talk and listen at the same time. We have to focus on one thing at a time.

Most people can have a short conversation while driving without problems, but others may not do so well. It does change from person to person. But it is certain that arguing while driving or trying to look at a map while driving will affect perception. If the mind is occupied with other things, it will focus less on the road, road signs and other cars, etc.

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