Auto Accident Risk Higher For Young Drivers With ADHD: Study

Researchers indicate that young drivers with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) may be more likely to engage in distracted driving behaviors, increasing the risk of an auto accident

In a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers found that individuals diagnosed with ADHD during their childhood or adolescent years are more likely to be involved in a crash when compared to those of similar age without an ADHD diagnosis.

Researchers sought to find whether a relationship between ADHD and accidents among young drivers, and whether age range, sex, or other variables increased the risk among the specified groups.

The study involved a review of data for individuals within the state of New Jersey who were born between 1987 and 1997, that were registered as a primary care patient and resident of the state. The researchers found 18,344 individuals, of which 2,479 had been diagnosed with ADHD during their childhood or early adolescent stages, and 15,865 without the diagnosis.

Aside from just over 1,000 patient exclusions for intellectual disabilities and lack of primary care visits, researchers pulled driving records for the individuals and searched for police reported crashes. The data indicated crashes involving newly licensed drivers with ADHD were 36% higher when compared to individuals of the same age without an ADHD diagnosis.

The average age of individuals analyzed in the study were between 17 and 22 years old. According to the study’s findings, no specific subset of age ranges was more or less likely to be involved in crashes. Furthermore, researchers found males and females with ADHD diagnosis were equally likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.

In the conclusion of the study, lead researcher Allison E, Curry, PhD, MPH indicated that much more research on the topic of ADHD driving risks is needed to understand the specific mechanisms of how drivers are influenced.

Distracted driving is the highest contributing factor to motor vehicle crashes across the United States, accounting for thousands of fatalities annually according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2013, a NHTSA report indicated 244 teenagers between 15 and 19 years old were killed in car accidents in 2013, and those numbers do not include occupants of the other vehicles involved in the accidents. The findings also indicate that 480 non-occupants, mostly pedestrians, were killed by distracted drivers in 2013.

ADHD diagnosis aside, recent studies and surveys have found that teens are more likely to engage in riskier behavior when behind the wheel. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, more than four out of every 10 teens sent text messaging or emailed while driving within the month before being surveyed. The 2013 report surveyed 13,000 high school students and revealed more than 41 percent of teens texted or emailed while driving in the month before the survey.

Other studies have highlighted the risks associated with distracted driving, especially among first time teen drivers. In a study published in January 2014, in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers concluded texting or dialing a phone number while driving is more likely to cause a car accident for teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 20, than adult drivers.

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