Perceptual load theory of attention predicts that the level of perceptual load in a primary task affects the processing of additional stimuli. Given the lack of ecologically valid evidence for the model, the current study assessed the effect of perceptual load on driver awareness during simulated driving tasks. The results showed that perceptual load dramatically affected driver awareness for visual and auditory stimuli, even those that were driving relevant and safety critical (e.g. pedestrians or the sound of a car horn). The results support load theory and suggest that perceptual load may be an important factor in driver safety.