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article imageBad driver? Blame your genes

By Ken Wightman     Oct 30, 2009 in Science
A new study by UCI neurologist Dr. Steven Cramer says bad drivers may be able to blame their poor driving habits on their genes.
Scientists have found one more thing to blame your parents for — your bad driving.
Dr. Steven Cramer, a University of California Irvine neurologist, found that people with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it. About 30 percent of Americans are affected.
Cramer said, "These people make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away."
The driving test was given to 29 people — 22 without the gene variant and seven with it. All drove 15 laps on a driving simulator that requiring them to navigate difficult curves and turns. Four days later, the test was repeated.
The people with the variant did worse both times and they showed less improvement when taking the second test.
Previous studies showed in people with the variant a smaller portion of the brain is stimulated when doing tasks. One result is these people don't recover as well as others after suffering a stroke. UCI researchers wondered how the variant would influence an activity engaged in by healthy people, such as driving.
Stephanie McHughen, a graduate student and lead author of the study, said, "We wanted to study motor behaviour, something more complex than finger-tapping. Driving seemed like a good choice because it has a learning curve and it's something most people know how to do."
But all is not lost for those with the variant — having it does carry some pluses. Studies have shown that people with it maintain their mental sharpness longer, than those without it, when afflicted with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and multiple scelerosis.
Cramer says, "I'd be curious to know the genetics of people who get into car crashes." He wonders if the accident rate is higher for drivers with the variant.
As the test for the variant is not commercially available, feel free to blame your parents for your bad driving. You cannot be proven wrong.
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