Updated 12 July 2019

Car crash risk much higher for US teens with ADHD

US teenagers with ADHD are more at risk of a car accident in their first month of driving than their peers.

A new study suggests that teenagers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to engage in reckless driving compared to other teenagers without ADHD, which may result in a crash. 

The study published in Pediatrics by researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), found that teenagers diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to engage in precarious driving, like not wearing a seat belt, driving under the influence and speeding.

It highlighted that drivers with ADHD had higher rates of "alcohol or drug violations and moving violations (including speeding, non-use of seat belts and electronic equipment use)".

In the study, researchers identified 1 800 newly-licensed teenage drivers who had been diagnosed with ADHD during childhood and compared their traffic violation and crash records with drivers who did not have ADHD.

The study's findings showed that among teen drivers with ADHD, 27% were issued a moving violation and 37% were issued a traffic violation within their first year of driving, as opposed to 18% and 25% respectively for drivers without ADHD. Many of the skills needed driving are impaired in teenagers with ADHD.

Allison E. Curry, lead author of the study and senior scientist at CHOP said, "What this study suggests is that we have to go beyond current recommendations of medication and delaying the age of getting license to decrease crash risk for teens with ADHD."

She continued to say, "Their higher rate of citations suggest that risky driving behaviours may account for why they crash more." Curry also suggested that the higher rate of citations suggest that risky driving behaviour may account for why teenagers with ADHD crash more.

Thomas J. Power, the study's co-author and Director of the Centre for Management of ADHD at CHOP said, "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."

It is said that the risk of an automobile accident is 36% higher for teenagers with ADHD compared their peers without ADHD during the first month of driving. Over four years , the risk of an alcohol-related crash is roughly two times higher for drivers with ADHD.

Image credit: iStock


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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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