Not surprisingly, the risk of motor vehicle crashes for teenagers is higher than any other age group. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, per mile driven, teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.
However, according to a recent study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) published in the journal Pediatrics, teen drivers diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to be involved in a crash, be issued violations, and engage in risky driving behaviors than their peers without ADHD.
The study found teens with ADHD have a 62 percent higher crash risk in the first month after getting licensed. Experience helps, but even within the first four years of having their license, their crash risk remains 37 percent higher than their peers.
The study researchers acknowledge additional research is needed to understand how the symptoms of ADHD influence crash risk. They suggest specific skills training and behavioral interventions should be developed to reduce the risk for newly licensed drivers with ADHD.
What can you do in the meantime if you have a new driver with ADHD?
The good news is teens with ADHD can become good drivers. However, do not expect it to come easily or quickly. You may want to seriously consider if your child might be better off waiting until they are older to start driving.
The first step is to schedule a visit with your teen's doctor and psychologist. They will be able to provide some guidance and recommendations on whether your child is at higher risk, along with treatment and therapies to help focus attention.
Second, seek professional driving instruction from a school specializing in training drivers with ADD/ADHD. Be prepared to take as much time as needed for your teen to develop competency and confidence before you send them off on their own.
Finally, once your teen with ADHD is driving, be sure to prepare a contract on safe driving practices and expectations. Be sure to set limits on who can ride along (although limiting passengers and any other distraction is strongly recommended until experience is built up). Require them to let you know where they are going, what time of day they are allowed to drive, and what is a permittable distance from home. Emphasize cellphone use while driving is never acceptable.
Many of these restrictions can be relaxed over time as confidence is built up, and as your teen gains the maturity and demonstrated competence to be a safe driver.