Canadian researchers have recently uncovered a link between those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury and engaged in the behavior aggressive driving. The study was published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention and examined drivers in Ontario who had suffered at least one traumatic brain injury. The drivers were found to report instances of aggressive driving at high levels, which included threatening other drivers, passengers or vehicles.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as any trauma to the head that results in a loss of consciousness for at least five minutes or overnight hospitalization. These injuries occur when there is a sudden blow to the head that causes damage or trauma to the brain. According to the lead author of this new Canadian study, there is a recognized link between driver aggression and mental illness or substance abuse. This is the first study of its kind to examine the link between TBIs and aggressive driving accidents.

Researchers combed through data from over 4,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 97 from the years 2011 to 2012. The study was a part of a massive survey conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which aims to examine mental health and substance abuse in Canada.

The data suggests that there is a link between traumatic brain injuries and dangerous driving behaviors. At this time, researchers cannot be sure if the relationship is causal. Further study will need to be conducted to understand the interplay between TBIs and aggressive driving.

In total, 16.7 percent of all survey responders had a history of TBI. The prevalence of brain injury was higher in men than in women. Those adults with a TBI were significantly more likely to have engaged in aggressive driving behavior in the past year, including making threats to other drivers and road users. These same drivers were also significantly more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in injury to themselves or others.

This study suggests that the health of one’s brain can have a tremendous impact on cognitive processing, which in turn affects our driving abilities. If TBIs are a root cause of aggressive driving behavior, this could suggest that other brain related damage or mental illness is associated with traffic safety problems.

This study points to an ongoing need for closer examination as to the interplay between cognitive functioning and safe driving skills. The more we understand about the root cause of accidents and dangerous driving behaviors, the better able we will be to prevent accidents in the future.

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