Researchers believe that teens with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), need more than just medication and delay in the age of getting a driving license to decrease accident risks.
The multidisciplinary team of researchers analysed detailed crash and traffic violation records for newly licensed drivers to conduct the first large-scale longitudinal study on this topic.
Risky driving behaviour is amenable to change, these findings suggested that clinicians and families can work with teens to practice safe driving behaviours and potentially reduce their crash risk.
"What this study suggested is that we have to go beyond current recommendations of medication and delaying the age of getting licensed to decrease the crash risk for teens with ADHD. Their higher rate of citations suggests that risky driving behaviours may account for why they crash more. More research is needed to objectively measure if and how these behaviours specifically contribute to crash risk," said the lead author of the study, Allison E. Curry.
According to the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, an estimated 6.1 million children aged 2 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Many of these youth with ADHD are potential drivers, and safe transportation is a growing concern. Evidence-based guidance to clinicians and families is urgently needed to protect these drivers, as well as others on the road.
For the retrospective study, researchers reviewed the records of 14,936 adolescents who were patients in New Jersey and had obtained an intermediate driver's license.
Further, 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.
Although the crash risk is elevated for all newly licensed drivers, the study team found it is 62 per cent higher for those with ADHD the first month after getting licensed, and 37 per cent higher during the first four years after licensure, regardless of their age when licensed.
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 is 109 per cent higher than those without ADHD.
"We need additional research to understand the specific mechanisms by which ADHD symptoms influence crash risk so that we can develop skills training and behavioural interventions to reduce the risk for newly licensed drivers with ADHD. There's not enough research currently being conducted on older adolescents and young adults with ADHD, particularly studies focused on promoting safe driving behaviour," concluded Thomas J. Power, the study co-author.
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