Study Suggests Bad Driving is Genetic

Dec 03, 2009

A new study by neuroscientists at UC Irvine suggests that bad drivers may be able to blame their genes for bad habits behind the wheel (at least partially).


The study found that people with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it – and a follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of Americans have the variant, which limits the availability of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) during activity, which helps to keep memory strong.


UCI scientists conducted tests to find out if the variant would affect an activity such as driving. The driving test was taken by 29 people – 22 without the gene variant and seven with it. They were asked to drive 15 laps on a simulator that required them to learn the nuances of a track programmed to have difficult curves and turns. Researchers recorded how well they stayed on the course over time. The test was repeated after 4 days.


Results showed that people with the variant did worse on both tests than the other participants, and they remembered less the second time.

Researchers said a test to determine whether someone has the gene variant is not commercially available, but researchers like Dr. Stephen Cramer are looking into further implications of the variant.


“I’d be curious to know the genetics of people who get into car crashes,” Cramer said. “I wonder if the accident rate is higher for drivers with the variant.”


For more information on this study, check out UC Irvine’s website.


Photo courtesy of the tjp under the Creative Commons License.