Research In Action

Research In Action

driving with ADHD
ADHD and Driving- Part 1
January 31, 2013

My colleagues and CIRP researchers Flaura Winston, MD, PhD and Catherine McDonald PhD, RN recently published an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics  about the combined impact of ADHD and distraction on novice teen drivers and suggest an approach to informing the development of evidence-based interventions. As a developmental pediatrician, this is of great interest to me. The most common driving-related scenario I face in my clinic is when parents of teens with ADHD ask about whether their teen is ready to drive. 

Studies (Barkley 2007; Fischer 2007) of children diagnosed with ADHD and followed into adolescence and young adulthood generally find similar increased risk of adverse driving outcomes, such as:

  • Increased risk of citations
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Increased risk of crashes and injury from crashes (Note: There is some mixed evidence of an increase in crash risk; some studies show that parents and teens will report an increased risk of a crash, but official records do not always support that. It’s important to consider, though, that official records may not always capture lower level crashes.)

In a driving simulator study (Fischer 2007), teens diagnosed with ADHD also showed:

  • Increased crashes and scrapes
  • Steering variability
  • Slower reaction times

We also know that symptoms associated with ADHD may also place drivers at risk. For instance, there is some fairly convincing evidence that emotional regulation difficulties, which are a common challenge among those with ADHD, are associated with unsafe driving behaviors. In one study [need link], young adults with more severe symptoms of ADHD displayed more anger and aggressive driving compared to those with less severe symptoms of ADHD.

In short, teens with ADHD are clearly at risk for some unsafe driving behaviors. So the bigger question is: What do we do? Stay tuned for a blog post by Dr. Winston, who  will discuss how we should approach the development of interventions to help these teens at risk.