3 types of attention you need to keep behind the wheel

It is obvious that attention to the wheel is an essential factor during the driving process.

Expert drivers develop automatisms that allow them to be more efficient and circulate more fluently. However, this type of reflex behavior should not be a substitute for optimal attention to what is happening on the road .

This has direct repercussions on issues such as:

  • The chances of having an accident.
  • The ability to perceive and react to an unforeseen event on the road.
  • The use of efficient driving techniques.

What are the types of attention while driving?

There are many ways to classify types of care.

However, in the case of driving, we often speak of selective, divided and sustained attention.

Selective or focused attention behind the wheel

Selective attention is a direct consequence of our limited ability to attend to various stimuli at the same time.

Selection can manifest itself in two different ways:

  • Selecting the information or stimuli to which attention is paid.
  • Selecting the response, process or action that is carried out as a consequence of a stimulus.

Naturally, the road and the very act of driving a vehicle involve the appearance of multiple stimuli such as, for example, traffic signals, changes in the route, the circulation of other vehicles, engine revolutions, billboards, rain, etc.

Some of these stimuli require an active response from the driver; others don’t. In fact, a good part of the actions required to drive a vehicle are automated over time.

The purpose of such automation is none other than to be able to pay attention to more unpredictable factors that require greater attention and an active response.

Why is selective attention to driving essential?

Selective attention contributes to making our driving more fluid and efficient, increasing our ability to react to events that require it.

Divided attention behind the wheel

Divided attention implies that the driver must attend to several stimuli simultaneously.

There are maneuvers while driving that require dividing our attention into various stimuli that are taking place at the same time.

For example, the overtaking maneuver requires active attention to multiple factors, including the following:

  • Vehicle to be overtaken.
  • Vehicles preceding the one to be overtaken.
  • Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction.
  • Vehicles driving behind your own vehicle.
  • Revolutions, speed and power developed by the engine.
  • Eventual gear change and turn signal signaling.
  • Route layout and signaling of the same.

Each of these factors requires you to divide your attention to a greater or lesser degree, since they have a changing nature and, in some cases, unpredictable.

Why is divided attention behind the wheel critical?

This type of care is essential for carrying out complex maneuvers such as overtaking, joining the road, crossing crossings, traffic with dense traffic, etc.

If you don’t divide your attention properly, your ability to react to stimuli that you are not alert to will be greatly reduced.

Sustained attention to the wheel

Sustained attention refers to the fact of having to remain alert to possible stimuli for a continuous period of time.

Probably the biggest problem with sustained attention is that it requires a great deal of effort on the part of the driver, which is often imperceptible.

The risk of suffering from fatigue and drowsiness on especially long journeys is triggered by the need to maintain a permanent alert while driving.

Why is sustained attention to the wheel essential?

Driving is, by nature, a phenomenon that requires sustained attention.

A little distraction behind the wheel can have catastrophic repercussions, even when driving at reduced speed.


Driving is a complex type of activity that requires your ability to select, divide, and hold your attention for as long as you are behind the wheel.

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