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Study explores safety concerns for teen drivers with ADHD

For teens, there is perhaps no better feeling than securing a driver's license. That's because this laminated document issued by the State of New Jersey not only grants them the ability to drive themselves to school, practice, work and other obligations, but also relative autonomy.

For parents of teens, however, there is perhaps nothing more stressful than their son or daughter securing a driver's license. That's because they not only have to worry about their child being exposed to the dangers of the road, but also their ability to practice safe driving habits.

In fact, these worries are likely more acute if their child has been diagnosed with some manner of medical condition that could present complications. For instance, parents of teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder will undoubtedly be concerned about them struggling with inattention, impulsivity and/or distraction behind the wheel.

Interestingly enough, researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia conducted a study to examine this very issue, finding that parents are right to be concerned, as adolescents with ADHD do indeed have a higher risk of being involved in a car accident.

As part of the study, published in the most recent edition of JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers examined the electronic medical records of over 18,500 New Jersey residents born between 1987 and 1997, and paired them with both crash reports and driver's license data.

After crunching all of the data, which included 2,500 teens with ADHD, the researchers found the following:

  • Adolescents with ADHD have a crash risk that is 36 percent higher than adolescents without the condition
  • The higher crash risk of adolescents was found among girls and boys
  • The higher crash risk lasted for several years

As disconcerting as these numbers may seem initially, the researchers did make two other highly significant findings.

First, they indicated that it's not entirely clear whether the findings are reflective of the crash risk across the entire country given the urbanization of New Jersey and its more stringent licensing requirements for teen drivers.

Second, they found that only 12 percent of the adolescents with ADHD were prescribed any medication to treat their condition, which is significant given that these drugs are known to be effective and could theoretically reduce the crash risk.

"A primary care provider or behavioral health specialist can help to guide that conversation with questions regarding readiness to drive," said the primary researcher. "During this visit, be sure to address any concerns -- such as attention issues or impulsivity -- and whether ADHD medication may be helpful to ensure safe driving behaviors."

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a crash caused by the recklessness of another, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options for seeking both justice and peace of mind.

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