Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It's characterized by symptoms such as difficulty sustaining attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
While ADHD can present challenges in many areas of life, it can be particularly dangerous when it comes to driving. In this article, we explore the ways in which ADHD can impact driving ability, the risks associated with distracted driving for people with ADHD, and strategies for improving driving skills and reducing the risk of accidents.
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- People with ADHD are at an increased risk of being involved in car accidents.1
- There are four big reasons why ADHD can cause distracted driving, one of which is the inability to concentrate for long periods of time.
- Teens and adults with ADHD are more likely than neurotypicals to engage in reckless driving behaviors.2
The dangers of distracted driving
In 2018, there were over 6.7 million recorded car accidents in the United States. Approximately 938,000 of these accidents were caused by at least one driver that was distracted, meaning that 14% of car accidents are caused by distracted driving.
People with ADHD are at increased risk of getting into a car accident due to their symptoms.1 Inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity can all interfere with the ability to drive safely. For example, someone with ADHD may have trouble staying focused on the road and may be more likely to take risks or engage in reckless driving behaviors.2
They may also be more likely to become easily distracted by things like music, passengers, or other stimuli in the car.
How can ADHD affect your ability to drive?
There are several ways in which ADHD can impact driving ability.
One of the most well-known ADHD symptoms is the tendency to become easily distracted, and this can have consequences on the road.
Because of their struggles with attention regulation and executive dysfunction, with ADHD may have difficulty filtering out irrelevant information. They're also more likely to be drawn to unimportant things that catch their attention while driving, like trees, airplanes, or the car radio.
This can make it challenging to focus on the road and pay attention to signs, traffic lights, emergency vehicles, and other drivers.
2. Impulsive behaviors
Impulsivity is another common symptom of ADHD that can affect driving. Because adults with ADHD may struggle with impulse control, they're more likely to engage in reckless or dangerous driving habits, as well as risk-taking behaviors.
Some examples of this include:
- Running stop signs and lights
Another ADHD symptom that can impact driving ability is hyperactivity. ADHDers may have difficulty sitting still, which can adversely affect their ability to maintain proper posture and control of the steering wheel.
Some people with ADHD are also prone to fidgeting, moving around, and making sudden movements.
4. Sleep deprivation
In addition to the above symptoms, teens and adults with ADHD are also at risk of experiencing sleep issues, which only worsens someone's driving skills.
Sleep deprivation can lead to drowsiness, slowed reaction times, and an inability to concentrate, all of which can increase the risk of causing a vehicle accident.
How to drive safely with ADHD
Despite these challenges, people with ADHD can still be safe drivers with the right support and accommodations. They could also benefit from working with a driving instructor with experience in working with ADHD adults and teens.
In addition, there are a few strategies that you can use to improve your focus and habits while driving to reduce the likelihood of accidents. These include:
1. Prioritize the safety of you and other drivers.
Before getting behind the wheel, it is important to prioritize safety and focus on driving safely.
For example, if you know your driving skills decrease at night or during inclement weather, try to avoid driving in these conditions. You'll also need to work to prioritize the speed limits and other laws on the road.
2. Limit your distractions.
To reduce the risk of distractions, it is important to minimize any potential sources of distraction in the car.
Common driving distractions:
- Changing the song, podcast, or radio station
- Receiving text messages or phone calls
- Drinking or eating while driving
- Talking with others in the car
3. Stay alert behind the wheel.
To stay alert and focused while driving, it's important to get enough sleep, avoid alcohol and drugs, and take regular breaks to rest and recharge.
It may also be helpful to listen to calming music or use mindfulness techniques to stay focused and calm.
4. Seek support from others.
If you or someone you know has ADHD and is struggling with driving, it's important to seek advice and treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.
In conclusion, ADHD can significantly impact someone's driving skills, and it can increase the risk of car accidents.1
By prioritizing safety, minimizing distractions, staying alert, and seeking support, people with ADHD can improve their driving skills and keep themselves and others safe on the road.
It's important to remember that everyone is different - what works for one person may not work for another.