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Executive Functions and Risk Propensity in Adolescent and Adult Male Drivers: A Comparison

Young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 are over-represented in motor-vehicle accident statistics worldwide. Several studies suggest that age could be a major crash risk factor in young drivers because their frontal lobes are not yet fully developed. The frontal lobes help inhibit impulsive behaviour and control executive functions which could otherwise result in higher risk taking propensity, impulsivity and reduced cognitive function which may lead to risky driving behaviours resulting in traffic accidents. This study examined the differences between 45 young (ages 16-18 years) and 32 adult (ages 25 years and over) male drivers in relation to cognitive ability, executive functioning, driving and risk attitudes, and impulsivity using cognitive tests and self-report questionnaires. The results showed that young drivers displayed attitudes significantly more approving of risk taking and risky driving, had significantly higher impulsivity, and were much more inclined to committing future driving violations. The adult drivers generally demonstrated higher cognitive ability and better executive functioning. A strong link was found between high risk propensity and riskier driving attitudes, which were both associated with better cognitive ability especially for young drivers. For the young drivers specifically, higher impulsivity and higher risk taking attitudes were linked with higher intentions to commit future driving violations. Also, for young drivers, poor fluency and switching were linked with a riskier driving attitude, and a safer attitude was linked to better inhibition. For the adult drivers, poor complex information processing was linked to higher risk taking attitudes. Further studies are needed to provide a better understanding of the young driver problem, particularly related to actual on road driving behaviour rather than self reported intentions.
Type of thesis
Moleni, J. (2010). Executive Functions and Risk Propensity in Adolescent and Adult Male Drivers: A Comparison (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5220
University of Waikato
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