Researchers hope a new computer program designed to train the brain to avoid distractions could be used to make people better drivers.
The simple program, which involves participants picking out letters amongst a series of “distracting” digits, aims to train the mind to ignore relevant distractions and get back to the task at hand.
University of WA psychologist Troy Visser said often drivers were looking at the road but not actually concentrating on what they were doing
“They might be thinking about a fight they just had with their spouse or something that’s going on at work,” he said.
“What you find is that people will drive for a while, maybe several blocks, maybe even longer than that, and then suddenly discover that they have no idea what they were doing for the past couple of minutes because they just weren’t concentrating.”
Associate Professor Visser has been awarded funding from the WA Institute for Medical Research to test the new computer program, using a driving simulator to determine if it can be used to help people better concentrate on the road.
It is this training that Symon Still hopes will prevent someone else from suffering the same catastrophic injury he did at the hands of a distracted driver.
Mr Still became a partial quadriplegic at the age of 24 when he was riding a bike to his job as a physical education teacher and crashed into a 4WD that pulled out in front of him.
The driver of the car was covering a 400m route he drove several times a day but was thinking about a work meeting he had just left.
Mr Still said he was very excited by the research’s potential.
“People hear the message ‘don’t be distracted’ but to actually train people’s brain so they’re much better at driving and not being distracted is just perfect,” he said.
Mr Still said nothing could take back his own accident but he hoped the program would help to prevent future serious injuries and deaths.
“Better (training for) people before they get their licence, even after they get their licence, is the way to go,” he said.
“I don’t know whether people are too complacent or too arrogant when they drive but we can always get better and I think people need to realise that.”