Humans have always taken risk to explore new ideas and ventures. Indeed, successful businessmen
such as Gates and Branson took risks in their business venture. However, I wish to correlate risk with
driving. In this article I am going to argue why drivers engage into reckless driving and whether the
human gene is a contributing factor?
What is Risk?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary risk is “possibility of meeting danger, or suffering harm.”
The word risk has its origins in the French word “risqué” and had a negative meaning of a hazard,
danger, exposure to mischance or peril. Why is it that some drivers engage in more sensation-seeking
behaviour? What exactly is their personality trait? Some psychologists have suggested a personality
trait called “neuroticism”. Having searched on Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopaedia describes this
“…is a tendency to be in a negative state….likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and
minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult and problematic.”
Risk in Driving.
Driving in hazardous conditions such as in winter months requires one to maintain a safe distance
from other vehicles in front and forward planning for fixed and moving hazards. Yet there are drivers
who tailgate other vehicles and have a total disregard for their use of speed. Are these drivers more
risk takers than those drives who are risk averse or risk neutral? To understand this phenomenon, I
have devised a mathematical interpretation on the basis of a probability of 1.0
MARGINAL PROPENSITY TO RISK + MARGINAL PROPENSITY TO ANTICIPATE = 1.0
On a scale of 0 to 1.0 the spectrum of risk will vary from individual to individual. Let’s take an
example of driving in dense fog on a Winter day. If as a driver, I totally disregard my safe distance
and use of speed, I am increasing my risk of being involved in a serious road traffic collision. My
personal risk factor would be 0.8 and my propensity to anticipate the likely outcome of my actions
would be quite low. In this particular case, 0.2.
But how many of us as drivers, in spite of repeated warnings still engage in reckless driving and total
disregard for other road users. One driver’s risky behaviour on the road could have dire consequences
for the risk adverse drivers as well.
The Role of the Gene
One such neurotransmitter is known as “Dopamine” which responds to stress and is linked to the
human brain. There are two variations of this neurotransmitter. The long and short version of this
DNA sequence. Those individuals with the long version are generally involved in taking more risks
in their driving. A contributing factor is an enzyme known as “monoamine oxidase” or MNO. This
enzyme is quite low during the early years of male’s cerebrum development. Yet as we grow older,
this level of enzyme increases thus diminishing the urge to engage in risky and reckless driving.
The biggest group engaged in high risk driving are young males, which partly explains the highest
accident group between the ages of 17 – 25.
As drivers we are in charge of a mechanically propelled machine. In driving we need to minimise this
risk by controlling our desire and urges to take risks in spite of poor visibility, weather conditions and
heavy flooding on our roads. The gene in itself is not a contributing factor for taking risks on the
road. The genes make proteins which structures our central nervous system. The neurotransmitter
which sends the electrical impulses from the brain onto our neurones needs to be controlled. I
personally believe that human beings are rational animals. We can discipline our self but we need to
continuously be on the spectrum of risk. What risk (if any) am I taking? What is the likely (if any)
outcome of my actions?
About the Author.
Tariq is a Grade 6 Fleet Registered ADI. He has written articles for Which? Consumer Watchdog.
Given regular interviews on BBC Radio Essex and on Channel 5 News. He is passionate
about driving and to this effect, regularly updates his training with new modern courses He runs his
own independent driving school called “Farrah Driver Training”.
Visit www.fleetmasteruk.com for other interesting blogs.