Device drivers make up the major part of the Linux kernel. Like other parts of the operating system, they operate in a highly privileged environment and can cause disaster if they get things wrong. Device drivers control the interaction between the operating system and the hardware device that they are controlling. For example, the filesystem makes use of a general block device interface when writing blocks to an IDE disk. The driver takes care of the details and makes device specific things happen. Device drivers are specific to the controller chip that they are driving which is why, for example, you need the NCR810 SCSI driver if your system has an NCR810 SCSI controller.