Young drivers with ADHD more likely to have an accident, study says

Adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are 36% more likely than other adolescent drivers to get into a car accident, according to a study published this week in JAMA Pediatrics.

Previous research has found much higher rates of crash risks for young people with ADHD. One 1993 study said adolescents who have ADHD are four times more likely to get into car accidents than those who don’t.

The new study’s authors noted that the earlier research had limitations, such as using small samples of teens from specialty clinics and relying on self- and parent-reported accidents. The JAMA Pediatrics study used a much larger sample: 18,500 electronic health records for young people, including nearly 2,500 with ADHD. The records came from six New Jersey primary care practices that are part of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia network and were linked to statewide driver licensing and crash databases from 2004 to 2014.

Thomas Power, a psychologist and co-author of the new study and the director of the Center for Management of ADHD at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the research indicates that the risks around adolescent drivers with ADHD are manageable.

“The presence of ADHD among young drivers warrants concern,” Power said. “But the findings suggest that, as a general rule, we shouldn’t be extremely concerned or fearful for allowing these youths to drive.”

ADHD is a chronic condition marked by symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsive behavior and difficulty sustaining attention. If untreated, these symptoms can impair a driver in a way that resembles intoxicated driving, according to the nonprofit National Resource Center on ADHD.

People with ADHD are particularly at risk for driving while distracted, especially during long-distance or highway driving, the nonprofit said. Laws across the country prohibit certain actions while driving, like talking on the phone, texting, eating, drinking or fiddling with the stereo,…

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