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Numerous studies have shown drivers with untreated ADHD are more at risk than their ‘non-ADD’ peers. One study found ADDers were 7 times more likely to be in multiple vehicle accidents where they are at fault. Dr. Laurence Jerome, a clinician and ADHD researcher, talks about the challenges of staying in your lane when you have a mind that wanders.
Some young people, with ADHD are very interested in the extreme sports which puts them at high risk. Driving isn’t an extreme sport but there are a bunch of long term and short term scenarios that could create a problem with people who have ADHD.
When they do have problems with their driving they like too drive fast, why that happens is unclear but, we think that it’s because it puts them in the zone. You have to be in the zone when you’re driving but when you have ADHD you can be understimulated and the speed gets you in your zone.
You wake up better. The problem is, you’re going faster than the speed limit and you still have a wondering attention. That means that if something happens unexpectedly than your breaking time is slower. So high speed, wondering attention and slow breaking is a recipe for motor vehicle collision.
Going fast by itself doesn’t correlate to ADHD. It probably correlates to a temperamental characteristic called adventuresome, and it’s for people who like to take risks. Even though these people take risks, they can be calculated risks. Some people who take risks may have ADHD but not everyone does. The people without ADHD plan it out, and then go ahead. People who drive racecars, and fly planes may like it when they’re going fast. Bottom line is do they have accidents. If your accident rate goes up then odds are you have a better chance of having ADHD.
Interestingly there’s a psychologist who has done a lot of the driving research and simulators. He found that on simulators people with ADHD will have less accidents and less errors on simulators if they have a manual gear shift. The manual switching of the gear helps them focus rather than using an automatic gear change. That looks like a useful piece of advice for the first few years at least.
Another obvious one is not to use cellphones, and other distracting things, like having too many people in the car and having too much noise in the car.
I should emphasize that you have to take everyone as an individual. Not everyone with ADHD is a bad driver. I’ve met people with ADHD who are excellent drivers. Some of them are even driving instructors.
One of the things that I would discuss with the families with young drivers are the increased risks. I want to get their input as an adult who has been driving for a while. If you’re a young person learning to drive, I think that it’s important to learn from a driving instructor.