The Top Strategies For Safe Driving

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Did you know automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among young people? In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, the second of a series on the brain and driving, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen take a closer look at what makes driving a car so potentially dangerous. They then dive into some of the major strategies we can examine in order to make the roads a safer place for everyone.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: I'm Tana Amen. In our podcasts, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Welcome back. We're on week two of your brain behind the wheel, and we are driving with you this week. In this episode, we're going to talk about strategies to help you when you get frustrated. Before we do, we want to ask you to think about this episode, think about anything you learn... tell us about your challenges when you're driving. Think about questions you have about driving, and make sure you leave them. You can go to, leave your question there, there's actually instructions. You can also tag us at Tana Amen or Daniel Amen on Instagram, and we would love to hear from you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Before we jump in, let me read one of the reviews from [inaudible 00:01:32]. I found all of he Brain Warrior podcast today, I scrolled down and started listening. There are so much out there about these topics, but I felt like I was finally listening to the truth. I love your honesty, the way you two complement each other, and real solutions or healthy alternatives that you offer. Thank you. I look forward to listening to more so I'm informed and can help myself, my family and friends. Tana, you are brave for sharing your story, and I'm sure you have and will continue to give others hope.
Tana Amen: Thank you. That's very sweet.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That's really awesome.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The first strategy is don't let kids drive until they're ready to drive. People don't know about the neuroscience that you're really not an adult when you are 18. If I look back to when I was 18, that was not the mindset of a fully formed brain. My impulsivity was high, and I wasn't always making the smartest decisions. I mean it turned out okay for me mostly after I married you. The brain does not finish developing until you're 25.
Isn't it interesting that the insurance companies knew this before neuroscientist knew this, or before society, right? Because they basically say you're an adult when you're 18, but your frontal lobes, so the front third of your brain, the most human thoughtful part of your brain actually doesn't finish developing until you're about 25. That's when insurance rates change because that's when car accidents go down, because insurance companies don't have a dog in the fight, they're just like, "When do I have to pay more money?" or, "When do I pay less money?", and they pay less money for drivers after the age of 25.
Now we know it's because their brain doesn't work right, but at 15 and a half, in most states, we're giving kids permit to drive when their brains aren't done. My oldest daughter, Breanne, she got her permit at 15 and a half because emotionally she was 18. Her sister didn't get her permit until she was 17 and a half because emotionally she wasn't ready when she was 15 and a half.
Tana Amen: One of my strategies with our daughter, and we've talked about this, you and I talked about some of this and how we were going to handle it. First of all, she's super anxious and didn't want to drive. That was actually a sign to me that she was more mature.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Do you know why she didn't want to drive?
Tana Amen: Because she's smart.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because she already had a chauffeur, who was nice to her and bought her drinks.
Tana Amen: That's part of it, yes, that's, that's part of it. But part of it is because she's smart, she realizes the danger. That's one of the ways that we kind of knew she'd be ready before a lot of teenagers because she's very anxious. She worries, and we actually like that. If you're going to get behind the wheel of a car you should be a little bit anxious.
One thing that we've talked about, and I told her this, I said, "Look if your... I'm sorry to say this and this isn't about bribery, but if your grades, if you maintain a certain GPA and you're involved in a certain number of activities like volunteering, um, that's when I will know your, you know, how much you can handle number one, number two, whether or not you have to pay for your own insurance." She's like, "What?" She's like, "I don't understand."
What she doesn't understand is there's a couple things with that. Number one, it tells me how dedicated she is, how focused she is. Number two, I want her spending time doing meaningful things. She's on the mayor's youth council, she's volunteering rather than spending time playing video games and on her phone, so because that actually makes her not as good of a driver.
We talked about what can we do to... I'd actually rather pay for part of her insurance knowing that she's doing those things versus her just sitting at home or not doing anything meaningful, and doing something that's going to affect her focus and concentration. She pays for part of it, only a part of it if she's maintaining a certain GPA and staying so busy with these meaningful activities that she doesn't have time to work a full-time job, versus...
Dr. Daniel Amen: Let's help people. When should kids get their permit? We've already said when they're emotionally close to 18, because being behind the wheel of a 6,000-pound vehicle, it's clearly a deadly weapon. We often talk about how suicide is the second leading cause of death in the young, well the number one is motor vehicle accidents. We have friends that are really close friend who lost her daughter from a drunk driver.
Sometimes it's not them, it's other people. Sometimes you just can't help it, I mean sometimes it's just bad luck or something awful happened. Yet, I think parents need to be their child's frontal lobe until the child is demonstrating that their frontal lobe is developing. It's a life or death issue. It's different than when you were growing up. When I got my license, it was 1969, yes, 1969, we didn't have cell phones. We did have 8-track tapes so that's how old I am. Even when you got your license...
Tana Amen: There were no cell phones.
Dr. Daniel Amen: There were not the level of distractions there are now. Now, people put their phones in their lap and watch Netflix while they're driving, or they're texting, or they're answering emails. It's more dangerous now than ever before.
Tana Amen: I totally agree with you. That was why, it wasn't like I was trying to bribe her, it's that I want to see how focused she is. Just because she's 16, just because a child is 16 it doesn't mean that they should be driving. It's not like a god-given right. It's just yes, that's the law says they can, it doesn't mean they should be. For me, it's a matter of how focused are you, how dedicated are you to certain things, and if it means that she gets good grades and stays focused, okay, that's a bonus.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You're directing her, you're being her frontal lobe.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Let's take a minute and talk about the other end of life because I've had this issue in my family. I'm one of seven children, and sometimes, especially when my dad was sick about five years ago, he had heart failure, and a heart arrhythmia, and had mold in their house. I had my siblings come up to me and they go, "You have to take dad's driver's license from him."
Tana Amen: Good luck with that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm like, "Let me think about this, and how I can give a thoughtful response because I'm the physician in the family."
Tana Amen: I just know your dad.
Dr. Daniel Amen: My first thing was let's get his brain right, which we did and he's better, and now he drives a lot. If you have an older person you're worried about, so Tana, I'm giving you clues on how to deal with me 20 years from now.
Tana Amen: Yes, I'm thinking that's not going to be the case.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you have an older person you're concerned about, this is actually why the DMV exists. I told my siblings, I said, "I'm not gonna be able to take his driver's license for me. I could take his keys, I could take his car and he's got enough money, he'll just buy one tomorrow." I'm not going to get him declared mentally incompetent. The DMV actually thinks about this, and the Department of Motor Vehicles is concerned about it. I told my siblings that if we're really concerned, that I will call them.
One of my sisters got mad at me because we had a fight about something else. She told dad that I was going to do that, and he got mad at me, and I told him in the most loving way possible, "If I think you're dangerous, I'm calling the DMV because I love you. And if you don't like it, it's too bad because that's what I'm doing." You always want to be firm and kind at the same time. He got mad at me, and it's all okay, because if I think he's dangerous, that's not only harmful to him, it's harmful-
Tana Amen: What about the lady with the two kids.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... to the other people.
Tana Amen: Or your mother in the car.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We need to be thoughtful and careful. These are life and death decisions.
Tana Amen: I totally agree. We got to be thinking about the other people. I have a very dear friend, someone very special to me who's a mentor. He had a heart arrhythmia, it wasn't even an issue of memory. He had a heart arrhythmia and he doesn't remember blacking out for just a split second, and he ran into a woman with two kids in the car. Thank God they were okay, but he was just horrified.
It all sounds fine like, "No, I'm gonna fight to keep my license", but when you end up in that situation where you hit someone and you hurt someone, and as a trauma nurse, I saw this happen all the time. When that person on the other end is really hurt or dies, you're going to feel very different about it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: How you fight to keep your license, how you fight to keep your independence is you become a brain warrior. You fight to keep the health of your brain as vibrant and as sharp for as long as possible. Make no mistake, you're in war for the health of your brain. We're talking about one of the battlefields which is the freeways here in southern California. I just talked to our CFO who lives in Boston, and they're the worst drivers in the whole country.
Tana Amen: They are funny though, they're very colorful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I don't know why they're the worst drivers, but they are. New York is not far behind. All right, when we come back we're going to give you some more tips about how not to be stressed out when you're driving.
Tana Amen: Don't forget about the book giveaway. There are a couple of ways you can win, you can enter in the weekly drawing for our free cookbook, it's The Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook. You can leave a positive review on iTunes. You can go to our website and ask us your question, there's step-by-step directions there. Go to and visit our review page on that website. Thank you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you learned something like how to deal with your teenager, or your adult, or your older adult parent, write it down and post it on some of your social media sites, and hashtag Brain Warrior's Way Podcast, we'd be so grateful.
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