Student Drivers with ADD/ADHD are at Greater Risk

Student Drivers with ADD/ADHD are at Greater Risk
Latest posts by Maria Wojtczak

Parents with teens with ADD/ADHD come into the DrivingMBA office with reluctant optimism – they’re excited for their teen to finally be old enough to drive and experience that independence and responsibility, but they’re worried about the risks. And there are plenty of reasons to worry:

  • Studies show that teens with ADHD are more likely to have poor driving habits because of ADHD’s core symptoms of distractibility and impulsivity.
  • Compared with their peers, teens with ADHD are at greater risk for crashes and are more likely to receive traffic tickets for speeding, failure to obey traffic laws, and reckless driving.
  • If gone untreated, the symptoms of ADHD can impair a driver’s ability and, in some cases, can resemble intoxicated driving.

It’s important to find the right driving education instructor who understands the symptoms and characteristics of teens with ADHD and how they process and retain information. Talking to your teen driver about the risks of getting behind the wheel isn’t enough – parents need to take an active role in the process, make a plan that takes ADHD symptoms into account and work collaboratively with your driving instructor.

The organization, CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder –  is an excellent resource for people with ADHD and we highly recommend visiting their website. CHADD was founded in 1987 in response to the frustration and sense of isolation experienced by parents and their children with ADHD.

Here are some tips from CHADD about working with your ADHD teen driver:

Treatment improves safety

Helping your teen develop safe driving habits, including following a comprehensive treatment plan, is essential for his or her safety, as well as the safety of his passengers, other drivers and pedestrians. Research shows that teens who are treated for ADHD are better drivers than teens receiving no treatment. Teenagers who have never been treated with stimulant medication are involved in more vehicle crashes than those who had medication treatment for at least three years.

Don’t Rush It

Don’t rush your teen to get a driving permit or a driver’s license if they have shown or said they’re not ready to drive; some teens with ADHD delay driving. Many driving-aged teens affected by ADHD lack the maturity needed to drive safely and could benefit from waiting to learn to drive or taking the driving exam. How long your teen should wait depends on you and your teen, but your teen should demonstrate sufficient maturity in other areas of life before taking to the road.

Set some rules

Make sure your teen keeps a log of each driving experience. Entries include medication (if prescribed), destination, route/miles, contact name and phone number, time/out and time/returned, and odometer. They must also follow the Everyday Rules:

  • Take medication as prescribed
  • Fill out the log every trip
  • While driving…
    • Keep music low
    • Use preset radio stations only
    • No eating
    • No texting or mobile phone use
    • No other teens in the car
    • Absolutely NO alcohol or other intoxicants

Set up a Contract

  • You and your teen enter into a contract that spells out each set of responsibilities. Your teen accepts ADHD as a neurobehavioral disorder that affects their driving.
  • Your teen agrees to abide by the driving rules and understands that they can move to the next level only when they succeed for six consecutive months at their current level.

Above excerpts were taken from the CHADD 2015 article, Teens with ADHD and Driving

For more information about ADD/ADHD, visit CHADD.org

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