Updated 17 July 2017

ADHD kids more likely to have bicycle accidents

Research indicates that impulsive behaviour and problems with paying attention are key reasons why kids with ADHD are more likely to have road accidents on their bicycles.

Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be more likely to have accidents when crossing busy intersections on their bicycles because they're impulsive and have trouble paying attention, a new study suggests. 

Researchers said it was known that children with ADHD were at increased risk, but the reasons were unclear.

Severe injuries

"Crossing roads on a bicycle requires decision and action. What we found is children with ADHD have deficits in both areas," study corresponding author Molly Nikolas said in a University of Iowa news release.

Nikolas is an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences.

Read: What is ADHD?

Bicycle crashes are a leading cause of severe injuries in children. Each year, nearly 400,000 kids are treated in U.S. emergency departments for bicycle-related injuries, according to the study.

Using a lab-based stationary bicycle, researchers studied how 27 children with ADHD and 36 children without the disorder crossed busy intersections, shown by computer simulation. The children were between the ages of 10 and 14. None of those with ADHD was on medication at the time.

Overall, children crossed when there were similar-sized gaps between cars. But those with ADHD were less precise in timing when to enter the intersection and had less time to spare, according to the study in the December issue of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Read: Who gets ADHD?

Moreover, after being exposed to heavy traffic with shorter gaps between cars, youngsters with ADHD had difficulty readjusting when traffic eased and gaps between cars widened. Rather than waiting for the wider gaps, the children with ADHD continued to choose shorter gaps, increasing their risk of an accident.

Longer gaps

"The timing issues were more related to symptoms of inattention while the decisions about which gaps to cross were related to hyperactivity and impulsivity – all core symptoms of ADHD," Nikolas said.

Read: Foster kids more likely to have ADHD 

The best way to help children with ADHD cross busy intersections may be to teach them to look for longer gaps between cars, no matter how heavy the traffic, she said.

"Even if their timing remains off, if they have a big enough gap, they will be OK," Nikolas said. "If we can have some intervention or prevention strategies that focus on the decision-making, that may help compensate for the timing deficit."

Almost 6 million American children between the ages of 3 and 17 have ADHD, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more: 

How secondhand smoke makes children act out  

Behaviour training for ADHD  

ADHD inattention checklist 


Ask the Expert

ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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