Association Between Executive Function and Problematic Adolescent Driving

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2016 Nov/Dec;37(9):702-711. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000353.


Objective: Motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) are one of the leading causes of injury and death for adolescents. Driving is a complex activity that is highly reliant on executive function (EF) to safely navigate through the environment. Little research has examined the efficacy of using self-reported EF measures for assessing adolescent driving risk. This study examined the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) questionnaire and performance-based EF tasks as potential predictors of problematic driving outcomes in adolescents.

Methods: Forty-six adolescent drivers completed the (1) BRIEF, (2) Trail Making Test, (3) Backwards Digit Span, and (4) self-report on 3 problematic driving outcomes: the number of times of having been pulled over by a police officer, the number of tickets issued, and the number of MVCs.

Results: Greater self-reported difficulty with planning and organization was associated with greater odds of having a MVC, whereas inhibition difficulties were associated with greater odds of receiving a ticket. Greater self-reported difficulty across multiple BRIEF subscales was associated with greater odds of being pulled over.

Conclusion: Overall findings indicated that the BRIEF, an ecological measure of EF, showed significant association with self-reported problematic driving outcomes in adolescents. No relationship was found between performance-based EF measures and self-reported driving outcomes. The BRIEF could offer unique and quick insight into problematic driving behavior and potentially be an indicator of driving risk in adolescent drivers during clinical evaluations.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult