Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, Pediatrics / 13.09.2019 Interview with: Elizabeth Walshe, PhD Research Post-Doctoral Fellow Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) Children's Hospital of Philadelphia What is the background for this study? Response: Motor vehicle crashes are a major public health concern and are the leading cause of death for adolescents in the US and other countries. Much of the research into why young driver crash rates are so high has focused on the role of driving experience and skills. But even among equally novice drivers, crash risk is still higher for younger novice drivers (17 year old new drivers have a higher crash risk than 20 year old new drivers). This suggests that crashes are related to development, and this is the focus of our research. We know from the field of neuroscience that the frontal lobe of the brain is still developing across adolescence and into adulthood along with some cognitive abilities. One of these cognitive abilities, called working memory is particularly important for managing complex tasks, such as driving. It allows us to monitor and update information in the moment (e.g. monitor and update information about the environment and the vehicle), and attend to multiple subtasks simultaneously (like multitasking to control the steering and speed, as well as other vehicle controls, perhaps while talking to a passenger or listening to the radio). Working memory has been shown to develop later, and at different rates for different people: some teens develop at a faster rate, and some teens develop a little later, even as late as the mid-twenties. In parallel, while crash rates are high for teen drivers, we also know that not all teen drivers crash. So what is it about those who do crash? Could this be related to their developing working memory? That question is what motivated this study. (more…)