Teen drivers diagnosed with ADHD are significantly more likely to crash, be issued traffic and moving violations, and engage in risk driving behaviors than their peers without ADHD, according to a new study through the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, included an analysis detailing crash and traffic violation records for newly licensed drivers. It is the first large-scale longitudinal study on this topic.

In the report, a multidisciplinary team of investigators from CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention and Center for Management of ADHD identifies risky driving behaviors that those with ADHD may be more likely to engage in, such as driving while intoxicated, not wearing a seat belt, and speeding. They suggest that health care providers and families work with teens with ADHD to promote safe driving behaviors that can potentially reduce their crash risk.

The investigators reviewed the records of 14,936 adolescents who were patients at 6 CHOP primary care practices in New Jersey and had obtained an intermediate driver’s license between January 2004 and December 2014.

The study team linked the adolescents' electronic health data with New Jersey driver licensing records, traffic violations, and police-reported crash data. Within this group, the researchers identified 1,769 adolescents with childhood-diagnosed ADHD who obtained an intermediate driver's license during the study period and compared their crash outcomes with those of the drivers without ADHD.

The results indicated that, although the crash risk is higher for newly licensed drivers, there is a 62% higher risk for those with ADHD the first month after getting licensed, 37% higher risk during the first 4 years after licensure, regardless of their age when they received their license. 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% higher than those without ADHD.

The rates of traffic and moving violations were also significantly higher among young drivers with ADHD as compared to those without ADHD. Among drivers with ADHD, nearly 37% were issued a traffic violation and nearly 27% a moving violation within their first year of driving, compared to 25% and 18% respectively among those 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 authors indicate that additional research is needed to understand the specific mechanisms in which ADHD symptoms influence crash and violation risk.


Reference

Curry et al. Traffic Crashes, Violations, and Suspensions Among Young Drivers With ADHD. Pediatrics, online. May 20, 2019. https://www.chop.edu/news/teens-adhd-get-more-traffic-violations-risky-driving-have-higher-crash-risk-regardless-age-when. Accessed May 24, 2019.