The challenges facing new drivers abound. But getting behind the wheel for the first time can be downright disastrous for some California teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As one such 16-year old recounted, her initial driving lesson resulted in the family car straddling a creek.
The young woman had become flustered when she tried to focus on both the road and the stream of directions spewing from her father's mouth. Confused and distracted, she hit the gas instead of the brake.
According to research, her mistake was no fluke. A 2007 study concluded that young drivers with ADHD are two to four times more likely than those without the disorder to have an accident. That is, their risk of crashing a vehicle is higher than that of an adult who is legally drunk.
The largest factor at play is inattention, the leading cause of crashes among all drivers - not just those suffering from ADHD. The risk of a crash doubles for any driver when he or she looks away from the road for two seconds or more.
But drivers with the disorder have an added obstacle to surmount. A major characteristic of ADHD is impulsiveness, often linked to increased risk taking. That can manifest itself behind the wheel in the form of speeding.
Put simply, inattentive and impulsive driving is "a bad combination" for teens, said one researcher. So what is the parent of an ADHD driver to do? Delay licensing. Many young adults with attention or other learning disabilities can become good drivers, just not as quickly or as easily as their peers.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Study: ADHD teen drivers run higher crash risk," March 27, 2012