Many parents worry about teenagers and safe driving. For teens with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), reckless driving is a serious concern.
Studies have shown that teen drivers with ADHD are three to four times more likely to have collisions and suffer injuries related to car accidents, compared to teens who do not have ADHD. Teenagers with ADHD can lack focus, have difficulty paying attention and might feel impulsive, which may result in risky or reckless driving habits.
However, there are ways for parents to help their teen with ADHD drive safely. Here are some safe driving tips and suggestions for teenagers with ADHD:
- Enroll in the right driving education program
All teens who are learning to drive must enroll in some type of driving education program. There are now programs designed specifically for teen drivers with ADHD or other learning disorders. These specialized driving programs include:
- More time using interactive driving simulators — This type of training can help improve performance once a teen with ADHD is behind the wheel of an actual car.
- Safe-driving checklists for teens — A checklist that one can frequently review or memorize can be helpful for teens with ADHD. Things that might be automatic for drivers without ADHD (like buckling your seatbelt, checking rearview mirrors and blind spots) may need further reinforcement for teenagers with ADHD.
- Hazard perception and intervention training — This helps drivers become more aware of potential hazards on the road. One study that looked at male students with ADHD found that making drivers more aware of traffic hazards improved the driving response time to these potential hazards.
- Spend more time learning how to drive
In most states, drivers must pass one level of a driving education or training program before moving onto the next. If your teen barely passes a level, consider repeating that part of the driving class before advancing to the next phase. A more gradual approach to learning how to drive can be beneficial for teens with ADHD.
- Get involved and communicate with your teen
Parents should regularly monitor their son or daughter’s progress and frequently check in with how they are doing in their driving class. Schedule many one-on-one driving sessions with your teen before they get their driver’s license or permit. Also, talk to your teen about how they feel about driving and their own progress. Parents can also have their teen keep a driving log and follow a safe-driving checklist each time they drive.
- Monitor any medications that may affect a teen’s driving
If your teen is taking any type of medication, whether it be for ADHD or another medical issue, talk to your doctor before your son or daughter starts driving. Monitor how the medication is affecting your teens’ driving ability and make adjustments to the dosage if needed. Some research has suggested that psycho-stimulant drugs may actually significantly improve driving performance in teens who have ADHD.
- Eliminate or minimize all driving distractions
When driving in the car with your teenager, cut out any and all distractions. This can include texting, using a smartphone, making phone calls, eating, drinking, smoking, or fiddling with the car stereo. Set strict rules and make your teen aware of all the dangers of distracted driving before they get behind the wheel. As a parent, it’s important to lead by example. If you are texting and driving, that makes it seem like it’s okay for your teen to do the same.
If you’re looking for a driving program for a teen with ADHD, talk to your child’s school or a therapist, who can help you find a specialized program for drivers with ADHD. Know that teens can learn good driving habits and drive safely, with the aid of their parents and a driving program that fits their needs.
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and HealthONE believes strongly in injury prevention. Injuries are very common but most of them are preventable. Our mission is to prevent unintentional injuries from happening in all ages of life and preserve quality of life.