Adults with Persistent ADHD May Be at Higher Risk for Car Accidents

Many studies have confirmed that teen drivers with ADHD are at greater risk for being involved in an accident, getting ticketed for a traffic violation, or having their driver’s license suspended. A new study, conducted by Arunima Roy, PhD, of the University of Ottawa’s Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research in Ontario, has found that individuals whose childhood ADHD persists into adulthood also appear to be at increased risk for motor vehicle crashes.

Earlier studies have consistently show the risk for car accidents in individuals with ADHD to be about 30% higher than in those without ADHD. However, these studies had not made a distinction between drivers whose childhood ADHD symptoms had persisted into adulthood and those whose ADHD symptoms had abated when they reached adulthood. Roy’s group sought to examine whether that distinction was important with respect to accident risk.

Roy’s team examined the risk for motor vehicle crashes in 441 adults with ADHD and 239 controls without ADHD from the Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD. Participants in the study provided self-reports on the number of motor vehicle crashes they had been involved in and the date when they received their driver’s license to measure driving experience. Their analysis took into account several factors, including:

  • Sex
  • Age at follow-up
  • Driving experience
  • Comorbid conditions )e.g., OCD, ODD, antisocial personality disorders)
  • Household income level
  • Substance abuse

Then, the researchers repeated the analysis using adult ADHD status (symptoms persistent from childhood  vs. not) and symptom level as the predictor variable.

Roy and colleagues found that adults with persistent ADHD were at higher risk for experiencing car crashes than those whose ADHD symptoms had diminished in adulthood. or the controls without ADHD. On average ADHD symptom levels in adulthood was associated with car crashes, with both adult inattention and hyperactive / impulsive symptom levels predicting the risk for motor vehicle crashes.

The study’s findings suggest that continuous management of ADHD symptoms in adulthood may prevent or reduce car accidents. Roy expressed the hope that more general awareness of the risks for adult drivers with persistent ADHD symptoms could motivate them to continue treatments for their ADHD symptoms.

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