The term ‘driver headspace’ has been used by some organisations to refer to the state of mind, or mindset, of a driver as a result of exposure to a stressful event or adverse circumstance.

The National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) Driver Headspace Working Group approached ARRB Group to carry out research to define, shed light on, and increase understanding of the term ‘driver headspace’, and events that impact on it.

As per their initial Project Brief, the research had seven aims; to:

  1. identify and categorise sources of driver headspace events
  2. understand the prevalence of driver headspace events across different sectors
  3. understand the mechanisms by which driver headspace is negatively impacted
  4. understand individual differences in the ability to experience and endure driver headspace events
  5. understand strategies that drivers do, and could, use to deal with driver headspace events
  6. understand the impact of driver headspace events on driver behaviour and performance
  7. identify strategies and organisational policies for preventing and mitigating the effects of driver exposure to driver headspace events.

A review of the literature, described below, revealed no scientific reference to, or definition of, the term ‘driver headspace’; or to changes in driver headspace, per se, resulting from driver exposure to a stressful event or adverse circumstance.

What the literature did reveal, however, is that exposure to a stressful event or adverse circumstance may have negative impacts on psycho-physiological functioning and, in turn, on driver performance and safety. Thus, for the purposes of this study, stressful events or adverse circumstances that may have a negative impact on a driver’s psycho-physiological functioning are referred to as ‘driver headspace events’.

‘Driver Headspace’ thus refers to the state of a driver’s psycho-physiological functioning as a result of exposure to a stressful event or adverse circumstance.