Teenage drivers 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, according to a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) study published today in the journal Pediatrics.
Researchers from CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention and Center for Management of ADHD analyzed crash and traffic violation records for newly-licensed drivers to conduct the first large-scale longitudinal study on this topic.
Although crash risk is elevated for all newly licensed drivers, the study team found it to be 62 percent higher for those with ADHD the first month after getting licensed, and 37 percent higher during the first four years after licensure, regardless of their age when licensed. Drivers with ADHD also experienced higher rates of specific crash types, including driving with passengers, at-fault-, single vehicle-, injury- and alcohol-related crashes, the last risk being 109 percent higher than those without ADHD.
“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, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study and a Senior Scientist and Director of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “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.”
The rates of traffic and moving violations were also significantly higher among young drivers with ADHD as compared to those without ADHD. Among these drivers, nearly 37 percent 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 their peers without ADHD. 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). 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.