Hazard Perception – Why Does This Matter?

hazard perception

Why Does This Matter?

Hazard perception has been an integral part of the UK driving test since 2002.  Research has shown that this development led to a significant reduction in road traffic accidents.

Professor David Crundall, a leading driver training psychologist at Nottingham Trent University, says:

Research indicates that the UK hazard perception test has delivered a very good improvement in driver safety.

It is also now known that even highly experienced drivers can benefit from developing this important cognitive skill.  Our ability to improve hazard perception never ends regardless of how long we have been driving.

David Crundall explains:

“It’s been demonstrated that hazard perception training is not just for learners – it can also help even highly experienced drivers.  Regardless of how long someone has been driving they can still benefit from this type of training”.

As a result, leading authorities in driver training are calling on fleet managers to use hazard perception training to improve further the skills of their drivers to reduce road traffic accidents.

COSHH Training

Our COSHH Training course provides essential awareness to trainees to help them identify the dangers and adopt safe working practices whilst working with hazardous substances, as well as, comply with the law.

How Does Hazard Perception Training Work?

From a driving perspective hazard perception is the mental skill of identifying a hazard, and then taking necessary action before it becomes a problem.

This anticipation and avoidance skill requires the ability to pick up on early warning clues in the environment and the behaviour of other road users.   David Crundall explains:

“For example, if you see a pedestrian near a crossing point, this does not necessarily pose a hazard at that moment.  But if they start to walk towards the road, and perhaps scan the road, then these behaviours provide clues and suggest that they are about to cross the road. These behaviours are precursors to the hazard which experienced and safer drivers are able to detect.

If these clues can be used effectively as part of decision making then the driver can reduce or avoid the hazard – for example by slowing down sooner or changing lane in anticipation of what might happen.”

So, hazard perception is about knowing where to look; what to look for; and how to act appropriately on what is seen. This is a sophisticated cognitive skill which can always be improved.

What adds to the complexity of hazard perception is that there are often a wide range of early warning signals that all occur at the same time – many of which may not lead to a problem.  David Crundall explains:

“Most traffic situations are complex and there are always a wide range of hazard precursors which drivers have to detect and prioritise.

Researchers have found that a key skill of advanced drivers is the ability to rapidly make sense of these early warning clues and to sort out those that are most important.” 

Summarising the research David Crundall says:

“Drivers who have a high level of hazard perception are able to assess each hazard precursor and rapidly prioritise the risk of each one – this is why more often than not they are able to take appropriate avoiding action when compared to less experienced drivers.”

How To Use Hazard Perception Training To Your Benefit

Proactive organisations now use a wide range of interventions to help reduce occupational road risk which include checking on new hire driver records; vehicle telematics to monitor road journeys; as well as providing other types of driver training.

One simple improvement to this range of safety measures is to  include a short hazard perception test that can be taken on any desktop computer. Such tests have been scientifically proven as providing an accurate predictor of a driver’s crash risk and have multiple uses within your organisation.

A hazard perception test that takes as little as 10 minutes can be used to:

  • Guide your recruitment decisions – these tests can be easily scored to provide an initial assessment of a driver’s skill
  • Advise your insurer – it provides useful additional evidence to your fleet insurer as to what you are doing to manage risk
  • Target training resources where they are most needed. Training budgets are always finite. So having good evidence as to which drivers are at greater risk, and then targeting extra training resource at them, is an easy way to adopt a risk based approach and get greater impact from training interventions.
  • Improve hazard perception skills. What’s also known is that hazard perception assessments has a training benefit – they help  build the drivers hazard perception skills which can lead to measurable improvements in on the road driving behaviour.

On the subject of hazard perception training, recent research in the United States has shown that this type of hazard perception training helps drivers to make better decisions.

David Crundall explains:

“A key reason why drivers are willing to do things that are likely to distract their attention whilst driving is that they think that the road is safe at that moment. In their assessment they can handle a momentary glance away to change the radio channel.   The issue with this is that drivers who have low levels of hazard perception make faulty assessments of the probable risk – they believe that the road situation is safe when it often turns out not to be”

The research shows that as people develop their hazard perception skills they improve in their ability in making these assessments, which in turn reduces their engagement in inappropriate activities that are likely to distract their attention at critical moments.”

How to Easily Implement Hazard Perception Training in Your Organisation Today

So, not only does hazard perception testing provide your organisation with a scientifically proven insight into a driver’s capability, it also helps to build this vital skill and reduces their risk on the road – it’s a win-win risk assessment and training exercise.

If you would like to explore how you can implement driver hazard perception assessment and training take a look at the Human Focus online Driver Risk Profiler.  This is a short online hazard perception assessment and training tool that uses interactive video clips to assess the driver’s skill.   It can be taken on any desktop computer and easily rolled out to large groups of drivers to provide a rapid assessment and training.

hazard perception 2

This tool has been developed in partnership with Professor David Crundall at Nottingham Trent University and has been subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation.

You can find out more about this by checking our Driver Risk Profiler details, or alternatively, complete the enquiry form below and we will contact you to discuss how this tool can assist you.

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