ADHD may put young drivers at risk of accidents

A young person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is more likely to be involved in a car accident than a drunk driver, according to a 2007 study. This can make learning to drive a scary and frustrating process for teens with ADHD and their parents.

The most obvious problem is that people with ADHD can easily become distracted by what else is going on inside and outside of the vehicle and lose focus on the road. In many cases, a person with ADHD also has trouble processing several instructions or events at the same time, which is commonly required when learning to drive.

A senior investigator for the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development said that as soon as a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for two seconds or more, the chance of having an accident doubles. This is why inattention behind the wheel can present such a danger for teens with ADHD, said the senior investigator.

The senior investigator also stated that when a driver is inexperienced, he or she is more easily distracted. Combine that with ADHD, and you have a recipe for disaster, especially if a cell phone or another electronic device is involved.

Parents can help teens with ADHD learn to drive by preparing them well before the test and setting strict rules, such as no passengers or cellphones in the vehicle. Experts also say that teenagers with ADHD may fare better on driving tests and may get into fewer accidents if they wait a few years to get their licenses.

Source: New York Times, “Study: ADHD teen drivers run higher crash risk,” March 27, 2012