More car accidents among young people due to a slower working memory?

More car accidents among young people due to a slower working memory?

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Why are young drivers more involved in accidents?

A certain type of age-related brain development could be the reason why so many young people are involved in car accidents, rather than immaturity and inexperience.

A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania found that some form of age-related brain development could be responsible for the frequent car accidents among young people. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "JAMA Network Open".

Slower development of working memory leads to more accidents

Screening the cognitive development of young drivers could be a new strategy to identify vulnerable young people and take measures to prevent motor vehicle accidents, a common cause of death for young people aged 15 to 24. The researchers focused on the so-called working memory, a brain process that is associated with the type of complex, instant multitasking. They found that adolescents with a slower development in working memory report a traffic accident more often.

Around 30 percent of the participants already had an accident

The published results are part of a long-term study with people who were initially between the ages of ten and twelve. These people were monitored medically until they were between 18 and 20 years old. The study not only examined the development of working memory, but also other risk-related behaviors were taken into account and the oldest group of participants also conducted a follow-up survey on driving experiences. Almost 30 percent of the 84 adolescents stated that they had already had an accident. The researchers report that all young drivers who had an accident developed an above-average slow working memory.

Big differences in the development of working memory

The new findings on working memory and young people driving cars could have an impact on future driver safety rules. Further research is now to find out whether the results obtained are also valid for a larger group of young people. If the results are confirmed in larger samples with different adolescents, cognitive skills such as working memory should be better examined to determine whether some adolescents are less willing to drive a car independently. There are significant differences in the development of working memory during teenage years, so some teenagers and young adults may not be willing to drive independently without additional support.

Adapted driver training based on working memory?

The development of working memory can be measured by computer-aided assessment or other tests. The results could help to develop different types of driver training depending on the needs of the individual, or to increase driving restrictions based on driver development. Interventions such as special driver training or new technologies could be developed to support young drivers if necessary. This is how many deaths of young people in road traffic would be prevented, the researchers emphasize. The study shows that some accidents are predictable and thus avoidable. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Elizabeth A. Walshe, Flaura K. Winston, Laura M. Betancourt, Atika Khurana, Kristin Arena, Daniel Romer: Working Memory Development and Motor Vehicle Crashes in Young Drivers, in JAMA Network Open (query: 15.09.2019), JAMA Network Open

Video: Unleash Your Super Brain To Learn Faster. Jim Kwik (August 2022).