What to Know About ADHD and Driving
Adolescent drivers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a 36 percent higher crash risk than other newly licensed teens. This crash risk persists during their initial driving years, regardless of gender or age when licensed. Although elevated, this risk is far lower than previously reported. The good news is that this risk is manageable. Here’s what families need to know about ADHD and driving based on research and advice from experts at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Teens with ADHD may have characteristics that place them at a higher risk for unsafe driving behaviors, such as inattention, distractibility, impulsivity, and emotional regulation difficulties. Conversely, they may also have characteristics that promote safer driving behavior, such as a vigilance to follow driving laws.
Is Your Teen With ADHD Ready To Drive?
To determine readiness to drive for their child with ADHD, families should first schedule a doctor’s appointment to address any concerns, such as attention, impulse control, or communication issues. They may also want to seek the advice of a behavior therapist, an occupational therapist who specializes in driving, or a driver rehabilitation specialist who has training in working with individuals with special needs. Factors to discuss include the child with ADHD’s willingness to communicate and negotiate with parents, consistency in following house rules such as driving agreements, and receptivity to constructive criticism and instruction.
Managing symptoms is key to helping adolescents with ADHD get behind the wheel safely. If ADHD medications are prescribed, families should work closely with their child’s doctor to ensure that the medication is working during the learning-to-drive period and continue to monitor its efficacy when driving with an intermediate license. While some families may fear prescribing medication when unnecessary, they also need to take ADHD symptoms seriously--especially when they may affect their teen’s crash risk.
It’s also important to add driving goals to the teen with ADHD’s individualized education plan (IEP) and to follow up with school personnel.
The Teen Driver Safety Research team at CHOP offers tools that can help guide families through the learning-to-drive process, including the TeenDrivingPlan Practice Guide.