Vol. 3, No. 2, 1997 Page 6


The next driver who speeds past you may be under the influence not of drugs or alcohol, but of a hyperactive brain. Russell Barkley and colleagues report that teens and young adults with hyperactivity are at high risk for getting speeding tickets, losing their licenses, and being involved in crashes—particularly those involving injuries.

Barkley et al. compared the driving records, skills, and knowledge of 25 young adults (ages 17 to 30) with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and 23 controls matched for age, gender, ethnicity, and educational status. The researchers interviewed the subjects about their driving histories and patterns, the number and types of traffic citations they had received, and the number of crashes in which they had been involved. They verified these reports by checking state driving records. Then each participant was tested using a videotaped test of driving knowledge, and a computerized driving simulator. In addition, subjects and their parents (or others who knew the subjects) were asked about the subjects' driving behaviors.

Among the researchers' findings:

Barkley et al. note that on the test of driving knowledge, subjects with ADHD performed as well as other subjects. "Knowing what to do, therefore, does not seem to be the problem with drivers having ADHD," they say. Rather, they say, "it is in the actual performance of driving and in the exercising of sound driving habits... that drivers with ADHD seem to have their difficulties."

In earlier research, Barkley et al. compared the driving histories of adults with ADHD to those of adults with anxiety or mood disorders. The ADHD group was more than three times as likely to have been involved in crashes, had more crashes, and had more speeding tickets than the other subjects. This finding, the researchers say, suggests that these driving risks "may be more specific to ADHD."


"Motor vehicle driving competencies and risks in teens and young adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder," Russell A. Barkley, Kevin Murphy, and Denise Kwasnik, Pediatrics, Vol. 98, No. 6, December 1996, pp. 1089-1095.

Related Article: [1998, Vol. 2] [2002, Vol. 8]

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