Teens, Behind the Wheel with ADHD

Learn tips to help minimize distractions and promote safe driving habits by taking into account the following tips.

By Eileen Bailey

Automobile accidents are the number one cause of death in 16-20 year olds. According to “The Teen Driver” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are 5,500 deaths and 450,000 injuries as a result of motor vehicle accidents involving teenagers. Futher, the article states that teens with ADHD are "2 to 4 times more likely to be injured in a motor vehicle crash than are their peers without ADHD."

Additional risks for teens with ADHD include:

  • Have more speeding citations (as many as 3 times more than non-ADHD teens)
  • Are more likely to cause bodily injury in accidents
  • Are more likely to have their driver’s license suspended or revoked

Safe driving requires certain skills: attention to detail, the ability to focus and sustain attention.  It requires the driver to be disciplined enough to eliminate or ignore certain distractions.  For anyone who has driven a car, you know that becoming distracted – even for a split second –  can be disastrous. 

Many states are taking steps to decrease the statistics involving teen drivers. Some have begun a graduated driver license system: learners permit, intermediate license and full license.  This system requires teens to demonstrate responsible behavior while driving before moving on the next stage.

Parents can help their teens minimize distractions and increase safe driving habits by keeping the following in mind:

  • Require that the cell phone be kept in the glove compartment, turned off, while driving. Set an example for your teen by never answering your cell phone while behind the wheel. Instead, if you are driving and must take a call, pull over somewhere safe while talking on the phone. 
  • Insist that your teen choose one radio station to listen to while driving and make a rule that they may not change the station while behind the wheel. Use CDs to eliminate the need to switch radio stations while driving.
  • Decide if you want to allow your teen to have passengers in the car with them. Passengers can be a major distraction and the more passengers, the more the distraction. Be sure you are always aware if your teen will be driving with someone else in the car and choose carefully who will sit in the front seat.  Some parents set a rule that no more than one passenger can be in the car at any time while their teen is driving.
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