L-plate driver Nicky Buiatti had moderate levels of distress which may have even prevented a crash.
L-plate driver Nicky Buiatti had moderate levels of distress which may have even prevented a crash.

Troubled teens safe to drive

GETTING behind the wheel while upset does not increase the risk of young people crashing their cars but could actually make them safer drivers, according to shocking new research.

Researchers at The George Institute surveyed more than 20,000 young Australian drivers and found that slight psychological distress among drivers aged 17 to 24 may actually make them safer drivers.

Psychological distress includes both symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“Earlier studies may have overestimated the risk of psychological distress on young driver crashes,” lead author of the research Dr Alexandra Martiniuk of The George Institute said.

“Our data, from the largest study of young drivers ever conducted, did not find that high levels of distress were related to increased crash risk – as other previous studies have suggested.

“Actually, results showed that moderate levels of psychological distress may even protect a young driver from crashing.”

Until now, previous smaller studies have been unable to rule out the possibility that drivers with emotional and psychological distress may spend less time driving and as a result reported conflicting findings.

This new study is the first large study to assess psychological distress in young drivers and then follow them two years into the future to see if they crashed. The study also controlled for the time spent behind the wheel.

“These results are particularly interesting, in that they show a moderate amount of psychological distress may actually protect young drivers against having a crash,” Dr Martiniuk said.

“Moderate levels of emotional distress may cause young drivers to be more vigilant when they are driving.”

These results are part of a series of analyses from the DRIVE study, funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, NRMA Motoring and Services, and NRMA-ACT Road Safety trust and the Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW.



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