Car crash risk much higher for US teens with ADHD

A new study suggests that teenagers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to engage in reckless driving compared to other teenagers without ADHD, which may result in a crash. 

The study published in Pediatrics by researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), found that teenagers diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to engage in precarious driving, like not wearing a seat belt, driving under the influence and speeding.

It highlighted that drivers with ADHD had higher rates of "alcohol or drug violations and moving violations (including speeding, non-use of seat belts and electronic equipment use)".

In the study, researchers identified 1 800 newly-licensed teenage drivers who had been diagnosed with ADHD during childhood and compared their traffic violation and crash records with drivers who did not have ADHD.

The study's findings showed that among teen drivers with ADHD, 27% were issued a moving violation and 37% were issued a traffic violation within their first year of driving, as opposed to 18% and 25% respectively for drivers without ADHD. Many of the skills needed driving are impaired in teenagers with ADHD.

Allison E. Curry, lead author of the study and senior scientist at CHOP said, "What this study suggests is that we have to go beyond current recommendations of medication and delaying the age of getting license to decrease crash risk for teens with ADHD."

She continued to say, "Their higher rate of citations suggest that risky driving behaviours may account for why they crash more." Curry also suggested that the higher rate of citations suggest that risky driving behaviour may account for why teenagers with ADHD crash more.

Thomas J. Power, the study's co-author and Director of the Centre for Management of ADHD at CHOP said, "We need additional research to understand the specific mechanisms by which ADHD symptoms influence crash risk so that we can develop skills training and behavioural interventions to reduce the risk for newly licensed drivers with ADHD."

It is said that the risk of an automobile accident is 36% higher for teenagers with ADHD compared their peers without ADHD during the first month of driving. Over four years , the risk of an alcohol-related crash is roughly two times higher for drivers with ADHD.

Image credit: iStock

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