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ADHD and Driving

A number of studies have found that compared with other people of the same age, people with ADHD:

  • are more likely to get speeding tickets and tickets for other traffic violations
  • are involved in car accidents more often, including accidents where someone was injured
  • are more often at fault in car accidents
  • are more likely to have driving habits that they and their passengers consider unsafe, such as erratic steering and slow reaction times
  • are three times more likely to lose their driver’s licenses

By the time they reach young adulthood, 40% of drivers with ADHD have had at least two accidents. This compares to only 6% of drivers without ADHD.

In many jurisdictions, if a doctor believes that a patient is not medically fit to drive because of uncontrolled ADHD, she must report it to the authorities.

ADHD affects driving for the same reasons that it affects many other areas of life. Young people with ADHD know what they should do when driving, but they often have trouble putting those rules into practice. ADHD impairs:

  • attention
  • resistance to distraction
  • response inhibition
  • reaction time
  • the capacity to follow rules

Driving risks increase if a teenager is experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Helping teenagers and young adults with ADHD drive safely

Some preliminary studies have found that treatment with stimulant medication:

  • improves driving performance
  • reduces driving errors caused by inattention, such as missing turns, failing to see signals, and failing to signal when turning
  • does not reduce speeding among teenage males

To help your teen drive safely, try these strategies:

  • Before your teen starts driving, agree on rules with him. You may want to limit the number of people who can ride with him and the time of day he can drive.
  • Make it clear that driving is a privilege that he can keep by behaving responsibly at home and at school. 
  • Monitor his driving and discuss any problems with him.
  • If there are certain times of day your teen is more likely to be driving, you and your teen can discuss his medication schedule with the doctor to ensure that his medication is active during those times.

Tara McAuley, PhD, CPsych

Peter Chaban, MA, MEd

Rosemary Tannock, PhD

11/23/2009




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