Brisbane, Australia – Young drivers who are anxious or depressed are more likely to take risks while driving, according to a new study by Australia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The results of the study, undertaken by QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, have been published in the international journal Injury Prevention. Surveying more than 760 young drivers, who were on their provisional licence, the researchers found that anxiety and depression accounted for 8.5 per cent of the risky driving behaviour reported by these drivers.

“The association was greater in women than in men, with 9.5 per cent being explained by psychological distress in women compared with 6.7 per cent in men,” said Bridie Scott-Parker, who led the study. “We already know that psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression, has been linked to risky behaviour in adolescents including unprotected sex, smoking and high alcohol consumption. What this study sought to do was look at whether or not psychological distress could also be linked to risky driving behaviours in young people, such as speeding, not wearing a seatbelt and using a mobile phone while at the wheel.”

Scott-Parker said that the research could be used to identify young drivers most at risk of psychological distress and therefore a greater crash risk on the road. Up until now, the relationship between novice risky driving behaviour and psychological distress had not been clearly identified or quantified, she said.

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