Hermundur Sigmundsson of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim Norway, found that in simulated driving conditions dyslexics took longer to react to flashing signs.
The six dyslexic drivers took on average 0.13 seconds longer to react during the rural drive than the non-dyslexic controls and were 0.19 seconds slower in the city, where the simulated environment was more complex. In both tests the controls took around 0.6 seconds to respond, so the dyslexic drivers were experiencing a delay of 20 to 30 per cent (Brain and Cognition, DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2004.11.007).
The article says this level of delay is worse than what happens as a result of moderate drinking.
Dr John Rack, of the Dyslexia Institute, said: "It's a small study and it's an overgeneralisation and oversimplification of what dyslexia is.
"It could really be quite offensive, I feel, to the many, many dyslexic people who are actually quite talented and skilled in those areas."
Perhaps some will be offended. But is it true? If this result is true is it true for all dyslexics? Are there dyslexics who can react very rapidly to sudden changes on roads? Also, does the average person who gets into a car accident have slower reaction times than the average person who does not get into a car accident?
In the future wouldn't it make sense to use objective tests of speed of responses to simulated road events to measure how well or poorly each prospective driver will do on the road? Even if dyslexics have slower reaction times on average surely there are non-dyslexics who naturally have reaction times that are worse than the average.
Also, picture devices in cars of marginal drivers or alcoholics that would test their reaction times and accuracies every time a bad driver wanted to start the car and go somewhere. Anyone unable to reaction in a timely manner could be denied the ability to make the engine start.
The more that different categories of people are compared the more differences will be found between those categories. This is inevitably going to lead to calls for rules changes that take into account the knowledge of these differences.
A study on brain development shows another example of differences in how the different brains react to road situations. Full development of a brain area involved in the tendency toward behavioral inhibition in the face of risks does not occur until age 25.
A National Institutes of Health study suggests that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25, a finding with implications for a host of policies, including the nation's driving laws.
"We'd thought the highest levels of physical and brain maturity were reached by age 18, maybe earlier -- so this threw us," said Jay Giedd, a pediatric psychiatrist leading the study, which released its first results in April. That makes adolescence "a dangerous time, when it should be the best."
Suppose it becomes possible to measure brains to show that some people never fully develop the part of their brain that causes them to inhibit risky behavior. Should those adults be kept off the road just because they are too prone to risks when behind the wheel? Or if some people develop tendencies to risk-aversion earlier should they be granted drivers licenses earlier than the majority of the population?
The problem with judging people only by what they do is that for many actions waiting for people to do undesired things (like cause a car accident) causes too much damage. We are going to gain greater abilities to predict what people might do. How to reconcile the coming greater abilities to predict human behavior with the legal ideal to treat all equally before the law?
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2005 February 04 02:16 AM Biological Mind|