The role of cognition for identifying unsafe young drivers

Andrea Di Meco, Joanne M. Bennett*, Jennifer Batchelor, Eugene Chekaluk, Elizabeth Andrews, Jessica Habib

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Young drivers (individuals between the ages of 15 and 25 years) engage in unsafe driving more than any other age group, accounting for a large portion of youth mortality rates both in Australia and worldwide. Recent research has found a link between cognitive factors such as memory, attention and executive functions and driving performance in younger drivers. The aim of the current study was to explore the unique contribution made by specific cognitive domains to unsafe youth driving, with the intention of using cognitive measures to help identify unsafe drivers. Participants comprised 95 (72% female) undergraduate students aged between 18 and 24 years. Participants completed a demographic questionnaire, a battery of cognitive tests shown to be related to driving performance in older age groups and two simulated drives. Driving performance measures included speeding (percentage of time over the limit, and average speed greater than 10 km/h over the limit), collisions and lane keeping measured via the Standard Deviation of Lane Position (SDLP). Results revealed that visuospatial ability (the visual object space and perception battery) predicted unsafe time spend speeding, whilst visuospatial executive function (Rey Complex Figure Organisation) and psychomotor skills with dominant hand (Grooved Pegboard) were found to predict average speed over the limit. The results returned on those measures, however, did not permit the clinical utility of the measures that would enable categorisation of safe and unsafe drivers above an 80% criterion of clinical significance. Recommendations for future studies are considered in light of limitations with the study such as the dichotomisation and choice of the driving performance measures, the choice of the cognitive tests and the sample of participants. These results provide a starting point for further investigation into the feasibility of cognitive testing for younger drivers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number105099
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalSafety Science
    Early online date21 Nov 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


    • cognitive functioning
    • driving
    • unsafe driving
    • fitness to drive
    • young drivers


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