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Psychological Testing, Gene Evaluation as Prerequisites for Driving?

Ohio traffic officials and safety experts, along with their counterparts throughout the rest of the country, focus on improving the safety environment as the primary means for reducing car accidents and safeguarding motorists’ lives. The emphasis is on improved road construction and engineering, logical signage, stronger and more stable vehicles, as well as laws mandating seat belt use and seeking to minimize distracting behaviors in the car, such as talking on cell phones and texting.

In other words, and once a driver has fulfilled — in a basically undifferentiated way, just like all other drivers — the licensing requirements to be lawfully on the road, safety enhancement efforts focus on non-driver external factors.

If the philosophy and research of Dr. Jin Huiqing of Hefei, China, were ever to make inroads in the United States, as they already have in China, the safety focus might be quite different, with things flipped around. Safety efforts would focus less on external improvements and more on individual drivers themselves.

Consider this. Dr. Jin’s research — which is widely known throughout China and has actually been adopted as policy in certain areas — stresses that bad driving is akin to a disease and that bad drivers have personal characteristics — even a neurological predisposition — to drive poorly.

Jin’s research company has more than 2,000 employees who run would-be drivers through an exhaustive physical and psychological testing process that includes assessment of their attitudes toward safety, perceptions of danger and risk taking. Test results are given to municipalities, companies and the individuals themselves, with recommendations for improvement.

Jin is additionally taking blood samples and looking for DNA markers — genes — that might predispose a person toward accident-prone driving.

If that seems radical, consider that about 300 motorists die in China every day and that traffic authorities are desperately searching for answers that will contribute to making Chinese roads safer.

As for Ohioans, they can undoubtedly rest easy over the prospect that they might be pulled over and asked to give a blood sample or pore through a battery of psychological tests as a condition for keeping their licenses.

Using genomic data in considering a person’s ability and right to drive would be “unjust social policy,” says one prominent injury prevention specialist who is familiar with Jin’s work. He notes that America is doing just fine with its sustained focus on improving the safety — and not the driver — environment.

Related Resource: Associated Press, “Chinese doctor sets out to ‘cure’ bad driving” July 15, 2011