Driving Safety for Teens With ADD

Teenage girls clown around in car
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What are the issues to know about when your ADD teen reaches driving age?

All parents worry when their teen reaches driving age and for good reason. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16 to 20-year-olds. Approximately 63% of those killed are drivers and 37% are passengers.

The problem is worst among 16-year-olds, who have the most limited driving experience and an immaturity that often results in risk-taking behind the wheel.

Teens often have a “no fear” attitude. They have a sense of invincibility that can be very dangerous, especially behind the wheel of a car.

For a teen with ADD / ADHD, these risks may be even greater. Driving requires maturity, concentration, focus, good decision making and judgment, and the ability to stop and think without impulsive responses.

It is important for parents to talk with their teens about how ADHD can impact their driving ability and create increased risks on the road. Together develop strategies to help limit distractions, focus attention, and make driving a safe experience.

Tips for Parents 

  • Let your child know that driving is a privilege that must be earned.
  • Many teens reach a point where they refuse to take ADHD medication that has been prescribed. If your teen is at this point, postpone giving him permission to drive until he is back on medicine and his impulsive and distractible behaviors are better under control.
  • Ride with your child in the car to allow him to practice driving skills. This gives you a better assessment of his abilities and readiness to drive on his own. It also allows you to address any problems that may arise.
  • Talk about the dangers of distractions like cell phone, radio, changing CDs, etc. Set up a plan for addressing this issue together You may decide the cell phone should be turned off and not used at all in the car while driving. Plan that CDs or the radio station may only be changed at stoplights or when in park and not at all while the car is in motion. For some with ADHD, music may be distracting altogether. If this is the case with your teen, discuss a rule about leaving the music off while driving.
  • Set rules about the number of passengers in the car. Risks and distractions increase with passengers.
  • Make certain your teen is clear that driving over the speed limit is not allowed.
  • Try to make sure your teen is not driving during rush hour traffic time when dangers and distractions are at a peak.
  • Restrict nighttime driving.
  • Slowly increase responsibilities as your teen earns it.
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Article Sources
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  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts 2004: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data From the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 2005. US Department of Transportation publication HS 809-919.