Teen drivers with ADHD get more tickets, have higher crash risk, study finds

Safety features parents should explore for teen drivers

Parents of teens with ADHD will want to take extra precautions before letting their child get a driver’s license, according to a new study.

Teens diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are “significantly more likely to crash, be issued traffic and moving violations, and engage in risky driving behaviors than their peers without ADHD,” a new study by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia concludes.

The research team analyzed crash and traffic violation records for newly licensed drivers to identify which risky driving behaviors — drunken driving, not wearing a seat belt and speeding — teens with ADHD might engage in.

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"What this study suggests is that we have to go beyond current recommendations of medication and delaying the age of getting licensed to decrease crash risk for teens with ADHD," said Allison E. Curry, lead author of the study. "Their higher rate of citations suggest that risky driving behaviors may account for why they crash more. More research is needed to objectively measure if and how these behaviors specifically contribute to crash risk."

For this study, researchers analyzed the health records of 14,936 teens who were patients of a Children's Hospital of Philadelphia facility and who had obtained their driver's license between January 2004 and December 2014. They found 1,769 teens who were diagnosed with ADHD and who earned their license during the study dates.

Those teens’ driving records were then compared to the records of teens without ADHD.

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Nearly 37 percent of teens with ADHD were issued a traffic violation and nearly 27 percent a moving violation within their first year of driving, compared to 25 percent and 18 percent, respectively, among teens without ADHD. Drivers with ADHD had “higher rates of alcohol or drug violations and moving violations (including speeding, nonuse of seat belts, and electronic equipment use). Their rate was 3.5 times that of young drivers without ADHD in the first year of driving and 1.5 times that of young drivers without ADHD in the first four years of driving,” the study concluded.

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

The study was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.