Bad Drivers: Born to run off the road?

Are bad drivers born that way? Some new research from the University of California Irving suggests they are. What's scary is that 30 per cent of Americans might possess such a trait.
Written by John Dodge, Contributor

Bad drivers are born not made new research from University of California at Irvine (UC Irvine) suggests.

Dr. Steven Cramer, an associate professor of neurology, has found that drivers with a particular gene variant perform 20 per cent worse in driving tests than people without it. He replicated the results with follow up tests and maintains that about 30 per cent of Americans have the variant, according to the UC Irvine press release (by the way, born to run off the road is a great line which I borrowed from Slashdot).

Dr. Steven Cramer

The gene limits the release of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that stimulates part of the brain that helps the body respond to the activity.

To make his point, Cramer asked 29 people seven of whom possessed the variant to drive 15 laps around a track with "difficult turns and curves." The seven did worse than the others, according to Cramer.

"Behavior derives from dozens and dozens of neurophysiologic events, so it's somewhat surprising this exercise bore fruit. I'd be curious to know the genetics of people who get into car crashes. I wonder if the accident rate is higher for drivers with the variant," Cramer said.

Bad drivers should not be completely disheartened, though.  Other studies have shown people with the gene variant maintain mental sharpness longer than those without it in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. There are no commercial products that currently test for the variant, according to Cramer.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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