Cell Phones: Not the Only Problem for Teen Drivers

As we’ve blogged about in the past, teen drivers with ADHD are a risk on the road. Studies have found that inexperience, coupled with inattention and poor judgment are a dangerous mix when kids with ADHD get behind the wheel.

Conventional wisdom has focused on addressing the problem, in part, by insisting that your teen driver (with or without attention challenges) stow his cell phone in a place where it won’t be a distraction (trunk or locked glove box). But cell phones aren’t the only problem: research findings reported in Reuters now suggest that “adolescents who reach for or handle other objects while driving are almost seven times more likely to crash than teens who don’t reach for anything at all.”

Study author Pnina Gershon of the National Institutes of Health suggests once again that “teens’ limited driving experience and youthful characteristics may contribute to their higher risk for distraction when engaging in secondary tasks while driving.” For teens with ADHD who are distractible by nature, the risks are likely to increase.

In this study, video clips of 82 new teen drivers showed that manual use of cell phones was involved in 10% of crashes, while “reaching for snacks, drinks or other objects happened in 11% of crashes.”

Pediatrician Dr. Scott Hadland, who is an adolescent specialist at Boston Medical Center and was not a part of this study, suggested that

Experienced drivers are likely better able to compensate for poorer driving while they are distracted than inexperienced drivers. It’s also possible that experienced drivers are more able to mitigate the risk of distracted driving by, for example, choosing to use their cell phones at lower risk times such as when driving slowly or when there are few other drivers around.

In addition to warning your new driver of the risks involved with various types of multitasking, consider modeling the behavior you want your teen to adopt. Your suggestions will be much more credible if your actions reflect your advice.

Related Smart Kids Topics

Risky Business: Driving with ADHD