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New research shows bad driving might not be your fault

Most traffic accidents are caused by bad drivers, but new scientific research finds that bad drivers may actually be caused by a genetic variation. UC Irvine neuroscientists have discovered a gene variant that could be responsible for creating bad drivers.

According to UC Irvine's findings, individuals with the gene variant performed 20 percent worse than those without the gene variant on driving tests. About 30 percent of Americans are believed to have the gene variation.

"These people make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away," said Dr. Steven Cramer, neurology associate professor and senior author of the study published recently in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

Scientists have discovered that the gene variation blocks a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor during activity. BDNF aids in memory and body response, which explains why individuals with the gene variation perform poorly at driving tasks.

No scientific research has been conducted on individuals involved in traffic accidents - as testing for the gene variation is not economically viable at this time - but Dr. Cramer indicates there could be a strong correlation. "I'd be curious to know the genetics of people who get into car crashes," Cramer said. "I wonder if the accident rate is higher for drivers with the variant."

The gene variant isn't all bad as it has been discovered to keep individuals with diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and multiple sclerosis mentally sharper than those without.