Study: Bad Driving May be due to Genetics

Changing lanes without signaling, running red lights, driving too slow on I-95: those of us who drive every morning on the streets and highways of South Florida are familiar with these displays of bad driving. These are the very acts which lead to the many auto accidents we see every day on the way to work. However, a new study shows that the reason for such bad driving may partially lie in the variations of our genes.

According to the Sun Sentinel, a study from the University of California, Irvine, linked a gene variation among individuals, which gives them less of the brain protein related to memory retention, to performance levels in a driving simulation 20 percent worse than individuals with higher levels of the protein. However, the study noted that this was only one factor in bad driving, and that 1 in 3 people have the gene variant.


The study, led by Dr. Steven Cramer, put 19 volunteers, ages 18 to 30, in a driving simulation. The results showed that drivers with the gene variant which limits the level of secretion of the protein brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) performed worse on the simulation and were not able to retain as much information about the simulation as the volunteers with higher levels of BDNF.

Dr. Cramer hopes that the study could help victims of auto accidents who suffer memory loss or brain trauma. However, others are hesitant to attribute bad driving to genetics.

Outside forces, such as failing to comply with the rules of the road, alcohol/substance abuse, rush-hour traffic and distractions are still the predominant causes of auto accidents, especially in busy South Florida cities such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Hopefully, however, more studies such as Dr. Cramer’s will continue to explore the inherent factors and ultimately point us toward solutions so that we can promote safe driving.