Do bad drivers have bad genes?


Dr. Cramer

Bad drivers may in part have their genes to blame. A recent 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.

These people make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away,” says Steven Cramer, University of California, Irvine, neurology associate professor and senior author of the study…

“We wanted to study motor behavior, something more complex than finger-tapping,” says Stephanie McHughen, graduate student and lead author of the study. “Driving seemed like a good choice because it has a learning curve and it’s something most people know how to do.”

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. Four days later, the test was repeated.

Results showed that people with the variant did worse on both tests than the other participants, and they remembered less the second time. “Behavior derives from dozens and dozens of neurophysiologic events, so it’s somewhat surprising this exercise bore fruit,” Cramer says…

A test to determine whether someone has the gene variant is not commercially available.

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

Ooh! I know a few people who absolutely would be caught out in a test like this. It explains a lot.

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