Kathryn Lindsay
Updated Apr 29, 2015 @ 2:46 pm

When I was learning how to drive, having my mom in the car meant that there was always this terrified person next to me, covering her eyes when I so much as approached a stop sign. It didn’t always seem like it at the time, but it turns out, this was actually making be a better driver. A new study shows that teens make safer decisions while driving when their mom is in the car with the, versus when they’re driving solo.

The scientists tested this theory by first having their participants take a driving simulation as quickly as possible. When teens approached a yellow light, they had the option to slow down or speed ahead. While, when alone, teens decided to take the plunge 55% of the time, the number dropped to 45% when they were accompanied by their mothers.

Eva Telzer, a University of Illinois professor of psychology, explains this, saying:

It’s also explained by cold, hard science. Having your mom in the car actually changes your brain activity. When participants made the safer choice, their “reward center” lit up, because they knew they were pleasing their moms. It also affected the area of the brain linked with impulse control, which is notoriously lacking when teens are simply driving with their peers.

In fact, peer driving has been consistently proven to be the most unsafe atmosphere for teens to drive in. A 2011 study that used the same simulation found that the participants made more risky choices when their friends were watching. Tezler expands on this. “Mothers redirected adolescents’ sense of reward away from risky choices and towards safe choices. In other words, it feels good to play it safe when mom is there, whereas it feels good to be risky when alone.”

Now you have another thing to thank mom for this Mother’s Day!

(Image via Shutterstock.)