Stressed Teens May Be Better Drivers




This is Scientific American 60-Second Mind, I'm Christie Nicholson. Got a minute?
Do you tend to get stressed out behind the wheel?
That might not be a bad thing.
Researchers 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.
Calm confidence can be a valuable attribute in some situations.
But behind the wheel perhaps the safer teen driver is just a bit jangled.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American 60-Second Mind. I'm Christie Nicholson.