A recent study published by the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, examined the records of youth with and without Attention Deficit Disorder in New Jersey. They were looking at statistics concerning young drivers. Specifically they compared youth without and with ADD and when they obtained their driver's licenses. They also compared motor vehicle crash risk between the two groups.
The age to obtain a license in New Jersey is 17-years-old, which is older than most states minimum driving age. The records for 15,865 youth without ADD were compared to 2,479 youth with ADD. Findings showed that the youth with ADD were 35 percent less likely to have obtained a license within six months of becoming eligible. When first crashes were analyzed, it was found that kids with ADD had a 36 percent higher first crash risk. These statistics should be concerning for parents of teens with ADD who drive. However, there are some commonsense steps that can be taken to improve the difficulties that inexperienced young drivers with ADD encounter. These difficulties are tied to the symptoms of inattention and impulsivity that can be part of the youth's ADD.
Safer Driving Tips for Teens with ADD
*Limit the number of people in the car. The more people that are in the car, the more opportunities for distractions exist. It is not just the number that affects distractions. The nature of the passengers makes a difference, too. Your young driver should not carry passengers that exclaim a lot, talk loudly, or clown around.
*Do away with distractions. These include things that kids don't consider distractions!
--Cell phones should be turned off. They should be there in case of emergencies. The young person can turn the cell phone back on when they reach their destinations. In the car, it stays off! There are few things more distracting than a cell phone signaling a call or text. Even with the best intentions, it is hard to ignore the pull of a cell phone letting you know that somebody wants you. Texting while driving cannot take place if the phone is turned off!
--Eating or drinking should only be done in a stopped car. Most of the time, a young person would be fine eating or drinking. However, there is that chance that something could drop or spill. What's the first reaction to something that is dropped or spilled? Yes! You look down at it. That brief look away from the road could be what it takes to cause an accident with terrible consequences.
--Music helps some people concentrate. Music surfing, looking for channels while driving or changing DVDs while driving, are dangerous activities. Changing the music while driving drastically reduces the attention that the young driver is giving the road. Looking down, just for a few seconds to find a DVD, can cause a young person to plow into a line of stopped cars or veer into another lane.
Just because some kids with ADD are at higher risk for first crashes doesn't mean that your child has to be. If your child takes medication, make sure that the medication is effective when they are driving. All young folks, with and without ADD, should be educated on defensive driving. Seat belts should be worn by each person in the car at all times. They should be taught about limiting distractions.
Driving is a privilege that should be earned by a youth who is being responsible in the areas of his life. Teach kids safety and insist that they follow your rules. Impose consequences if they do not follow safety rules. It is certain that your consequences will be easier to live with than the natural consequences that can result from inattention while driving.
Allison E. Curry, Ph.D., M.P.H. et al. Motor Vehicle Crash Risk Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. JAMA Pediatrics, June 2017 DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.0910
The JAMA Network Journals. "Licensing and motor vehicle crash risk among teens with ADHD." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2017.
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