Teenagers, especially boys, begin talking about driving by the time they’re 15. In some states, a Learner’s Permit is available at 15 and a driver’s license at 16. Statistics show that 16-year-old drivers have more accidents per driving mile than any other age. Generally, about 20 percent of fatal speed-related crashes are caused by drivers between the age of 15 and 19. (More than half of those annual fatalities could be prevented by wearing seatbelts.)
Youth with ADHD or ADD, in their first 2 to 5 years of driving, have nearly four times as many automobile accidents, are more likely to cause bodily injury in accidents, and have three times as many citations for speeding as young drivers without ADHD.
I think it’s also important to keep in mind that developmentally, your teen with ADHD or ADD may be 2 to 3 years behind his peers in terms of brain development. Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not he will be able to use the car. (You may even decide to hold off for a couple of years until your child demonstrates his readiness to drive.)
(Hear Dr. Bob talk more about this in his recent podcast)
Most states, after looking at the statistics for automobile accidents involving teenage drivers, have begun to use a Graduated Driver Licensing system (GDL). This system eases young drivers onto the roads by a slow progression of exposure to more difficult driving experiences. The program, as developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, consists of three stages: Learner’s Permit, Intermediate (provisional) License, and full licensure. Drivers must demonstrate responsible driving behavior at each stage before advancing to the next level.
During the Learner’s Permit stage, a licensed adult must be in the car at all times. This period of time will give the learner a chance to practice, practice, practice. The more your child drives, the more efficient he or she will become. The sense of accomplishment the teenager with ADHD will feel when the coveted license is finally in his or her hands will make all the time and effort involved worthwhile.
More Helpful Information:
(This can also be ordered from NHTSA Headquarters, Traffic Safety Programs, ATTN: NTS-32, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590)
Fact: For the child with ADHD, the difficult teen years are doubly hard. That’s because all the adolescent problems—peer pressure, the fear of failure both in school and with peers, low self-esteem—are harder for the ADHD child to handle. The desire to be independent, to try new and forbidden things—alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity—are ways that many teens with ADHD self-medicate. And you may wake up one morning to realize that the household rules that were working for years have been thrown out the window.
Know that now, more than ever, rules should be straightforward and easy to understand. Clear communication between you and your teen with ADHD is vital. Make sure they understand the reasons for each rule. In other words, when a rule is set, it should be clear why the rule is set. Sometimes it helps to have a chart posted in the kitchen that lists all household rules and all rules for outside the home (including social behavior and school).
When rules are broken—and they will be—respond to this inappropriate behavior as calmly and matter-of-factly as possible. Use punishment sparingly, but let your teen face the consequences of his or her actions. Even with adolescents, a time-out can work, though you might want to call it something different. Impulsivity and hot temper often accompany ADHD; a short time alone can help.
Know that as your teenager spends more time away from home, there will be demands for a later curfew and the use of the car. Listen to your child’s requests, give reasons for your opinion and listen to his or her opinion and negotiate. Communication, negotiation, and compromise will prove helpful.
I believe parents can help their teen with ADHD function successfully by coaching them in the following:
One last word of advice: although your child most probably has been periodically evaluated through the years, adolescence, with its raging hormones and physical changes, is a good time to have your child’s doctor do a complete re-evaluation of their health.