March 19, 2018
Research findings recently published in JAMA Pediatrics show that teen drivers with ADHD have a 36% risk for being in a car crash. Although previous studies have found similar risks (some even greater), those studies have been criticized for their small sample size, and use of self-reported crash information.
In contrast, this new study gathered data from a large sample of 18,500 electronic records for adolescents in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia network, and linked that information to databases for statewide driver’s licensing and car crashes.
In addition, previous studies were primarily comprised of males whereas this study included both sexes. The crash hazard among males with ADHD was 1.42 times higher than among males without ADHD and 1.25 times higher for females with ADHD than females without ADHD.
According to a report on this study at CNN Health, the co-author and psychologist Thomas Power, director of the Center for Management of ADHD at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said, “The presence of ADHD among young drivers warrants concern. But the findings suggest that, as a general rule, we shouldn’t be extremely concerned or fearful for allowing these youths to drive.”
Power went on to say that he believes no laws are necessary to regulate driver’s licenses for teens with ADHD, but he does believe parents have a responsibility to “ensure that their children are emotionally ready before getting behind the wheel.”
As with most studies, this one raised an important issue for future research: Among the 2,500 kids with ADHD in this study, 12% used medication in the 30 days prior to receiving their driver’s license, suggesting to Power that a “high percentage of novice drivers with ADHD are not taking medication when they drive. Why are adolescents not being prescribed medication? And why are they not using medication?” he asked. “Because there clearly is evidence that using medication can reduce crash risk.”