There’s a gene that determines if you’re a bad driver!
Yeah, you read right. If you’re a bad driver… It’s not really your fault. You were just unlucky in the genetic lottery.
Dr. Steven Cramer, a neurologist from the University of California, alongside his team and together with researchers from the University of Florida wanted to study motor behavior. Looking into driving skills specifically seemed like the best choice because it’s considered a common skill and it involves a learning curve.
Here’s the gist of it:
29 people were recruited for this study, with seven of them having this “doomed to be a bad driver” gene variant. They were all put through driving tests, the first round to learn the track and the second round to look at performance improvements. Now here’s the interesting bit, the results! People with this gene variant did worse than their counterparts in both tests! Normally, it takes a billion events in one’s life to build a certain behavior and here, we see this just happening – our genes taking full control almost as if the rest of our brain is on autopilot. Doesn’t matter if we’re pro Daytona drivers!
Well, that sucks for us bad drivers. But there’s some good news. Kinda. The seven participants were only 20% worse! That’s not so bad, right? I mean sure it might mean the difference between getting honked on the street or getting an appreciative driver to driver nod (or the typical Malaysian hand wave for a “Thank you”) but I think we can all live with the honking. And the murderous stares. And the occasional “Woi you think this your father’s road issit??!”.
Getting back on track (pun totally intended), the same study also discussed how people with this gene variant maintained their usual mental sharpness for a longer time when hit with neurodegenerative disorders! Basically, this means that if you suck at driving and it’s because of this gene, and on the off chance you also develop Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s – you’ll keep your not-so-great-at-driving-but-good-at-other-stuff mental faculties for a longer time compared to those genetically (annoying) good drivers!
The researchers explained this as a form of evolution. Not having that gene means you’re a good driver but you won’t recover from a stroke as quickly – whereas having this variant means you suck at driving but you’ll maintain mental sharpness for a longer time if you get diagnosed with something that affects cognitive functions. So… Yay? Kinda.
Unfortunately, I doubt this little nugget of information will help anyone maintain their cool when that siao driver who thinks it’s their father’s road drives like a six-year-old who goes through both a sugar rush and sudden nap time urges within the span of 30 seconds.
Here’s a little more of the science-e stuff: People with this gene variation have a limited secretion of a protein called BDNF (brain-derived-neurotrophic factor). Enough of this protein leads to less errors and the retaining of memories when performing a task, while not enough leads to the opposite.
So, I know what you’re thinking, we should get everyone on the roads of Malaysia tested and put away those with this gene variant. Alas, this test is not commercially available. Yet.