Think teen drivers are bad? Add ADHD

U. BUFFALO (US) — A simulator is making better drivers of the most risky motorists on the road: teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“We had worked with children with ADHD for a long time,” says Gregory Fabiano, associate professor of counseling, school, and educational psychology at the University at Buffalo. “And as those kids grew up, we heard concerns from parents about the transition to independent driving.

“So we did some research and found out results not surprising to anybody. Teen drivers are the worst on the road.  And some recent research has shown that compared to that worst group of drivers, teen drivers with ADHD were significantly more at risk for everything.”

Fabiano also found stark results when it comes to teens texting while driving: Texting while driving can make individuals as bad as drunk drivers or worse.

“It’s hard to turn on the TV or open a newspaper or magazine without seeing something about the risks of texting and driving,” Fabiano says. “Because cell phones only have been around for a while, this is a recent phenomenon.

“And only in the past five years have text messages and texting been something we all have on our phones and in our pocket, so it’s really a new distracter that teens now entering the roadway are having.

“In our research, we have yet to have somebody be a successful texter while driving, and that includes our internal staff and me,” Fabiano says.

“Texting while driving impairs driving to the extent where there are deviations in the lane, on the shoulder, people spinning out, they lose control, and it’s not hard to extrapolate that if that sort of thing happened on a real road, you could have hit a pedestrian, another car, a bad accident.”

The significant conclusion of this part of the research is how teenagers who lose control of the simulated vehicle while texting often do not realize their ability to drive is severely compromised.

The five-year study aims to develop a driver education program targeted specifically to ADHD teens and their parents. Teens practice on the driving simulator and are given an onboard driving monitor to track driving behaviors, giving parents and teens the chance to review their driving performance and interactions.

“We have found teens with ADHD are like children with ADHD in that they have poor insight on the impact of their behavior on others,” Fabiano says. “So most of the teens we work with think they can easily text while driving without any poor consequences.”

The research is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

More news from University at Buffalo: