Biological, Developmental, and Neurobehavioral Factors Relevant to Adolescent Driving Risks

  • Dahl R
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This article reviews emerging knowledge about key aspects of neurobehavioral development, with an emphasis on the development of self-regulation over behavior and emotions and its relevance to driving risks among youth. It begins with a brief overview of recent advances in understanding adolescent brain maturation and presents a heuristic model focusing on brain-behavior-social-context interactions during adolescent development. The article considers the relatively slow neurobehavioral maturation of cognitive control and emphasizes the importance of affective influences on decision making. It points to several questions about programs and policies that may help to protect high-risk youth during this important maturational period. The heuristic model is then used to examine a specific neuroregulatory system during adolescence-the regulation of sleep and arousal. This focus on sleep illustrates key points about brain-behavior-social-context interactions by looking at both biological and social influences on sleep in teens. Moreover, sleep has direct relevance to understanding a specific dimension of driving risk in youth. Sleep deprivation is rampant among adolescents, and the consequences of insufficient sleep (sleepiness, lapses in attention, susceptibility to aggression, and negative synergy with alcohol) appear to contribute significantly to driving risks in teens. © 2008 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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