If bad driving is a disease, some people should be locked up in deep quarantine. Turn signal phobia, red light blindness, tailgate-itis, cellphone dementia -- today's roads are a hot zone of pathology.
So here's to Dr. Jin Huiqing, a physician in China who feels that bad driving should be treated like an illness--something that can be predicted, diagnosed and treated. It's no surprise that a Chinese doctor would be concerned about driving. I've been in Beijing traffic--imagine a bad jam in L.A., but with less regard for human life. And more bicycles. If someone discovers a drug that improves driving, it should go straight into the city's water supply.
I think Jin is on the right track. Studies have found that certain genes can encourage people to take financial risks, so it's not much of a stretch to suspect that some people are born with a willingness to fly through an uncontrolled intersection without a sideways glance. If he keeps giving drivers blood tests and neurological tests, he just might find a smoking gun. Or at least a flashing hazard signal.
It's already possible to spot potentially terrible drivers before they get behind the wheel. A study of 500 drivers published in 2000 zeroed in on the types of people who were especially likely to get into a crash. Young drivers were at that top of the list, no surprise. People who had high levels of hostility combined with low self-esteem (in other words, they're sort of jerks and they know it) were also crash-prone. I was most interested to see that people with stressful jobs get in more than their share of accidents. Take note, bosses: Deadlines kill.