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Stressed Teens May Be Better Drivers

Teenage drivers who have a high sensitivity to stress actually have lower rates of car accidents than their more mellow friends. Christie Nicholson reports

 

Do you tend to get stressed out behind the wheel? That might not be a bad thing. Researchers have discovered that teenager drivers who have a high sensitivity to stress actually have lower rates of car accidents than their mellow friends.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, so teen driving is a legitimate public health issue that deserves a lot of study.

To create a stressful situation in the lab, scientists administered a math test to 40 teenagers, all of whom had recently gotten their drivers’ licenses.

The researchers measured the teens’ level of the stress hormone hormone cortisol after the math quiz. The higher the cortisol level, the more sensitive an individual is to a pressurized situation.

The researchers then tracked the teens for 18 months. And cameras mounted inside their cars documented their driving behavior.

Turned out that the teens who had a lower response to stress actually had higher rates of crashes and near crashes than did those with higher stress sensitivity. [Marie Claude Ouimet et al, Higher Crash and Near-Crash Rates in Teenaged Drivers With Lower Cortisol Response: An 18-Month Longitudinal, Naturalistic Study, in JAMA Pediatrics]
 
Calm confidence can be a valuable attribute in some situations. But behind the wheel perhaps the safer teen driver is just a bit jangled.
 
—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
 

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