ADHD May Increase Risk for Adolescent Vehicle Crashes

 In Naturopathic News

A study last week from JAMA Pediatrics,1 reports that adolescent drivers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a significantly increased crash risk compared to other newly licensed teens. The data suggests that ADHD teens have a 36% higher crash risk, which though high, is much lower than previous reports.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Study

The study was conducted through Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and looked at over 18,500 health records of children born from 1987 to 1997. They cross examined these records with New Jersey driver licensing and crash data to show a correlative association between ADHD, licensure and automobile crash occurrence. Of the 18,500 individual records, 2,479 patients had a diagnosis of ADHD. Generally, crash risk was seen to increase during the initial years of driving, regardless of gender and specific age when licensed.  Among individuals with a driver’s license, 764 of 1785 with ADHD (42.8%) and 4715 of 13 221 without ADHD (35.7%) crashed during the study period. The newly licensed adolescent drivers with ADHD, and numbers of crashes, indicated a greater risk for this group.

Study Suggests

Individuals with ADHD have a propensity for inattention, distractibility, impulsivity, and difficulty regulating emotions, all traits that may play a role in a higher risk for unsafe driving behaviors. The researchers of this study are hoping that these findings will help develop evidence-based education options for adolescents with ADHD who want to drive. The study also comments on the number of adolescents with a current medication prescription at the time of their crash – only 12%. This was surprising, and may lead to an aggressive recommendation on medication for adolescents in the future. Though, the study does not support outright medicating teens who want to drive, instead it makes a very responsible recommendation that teens with ADHD who wish to drive, should schedule a doctor’s appointment to address potential risks such as attention, communication issues, and impulse control. Behavioral therapists and occupational therapists are also specifically advocated as resources for teen drivers with ADHD.


  1. Curry AE, Metzger KB, Pfeiffer MR, Elliott MR, Winston FK, Power TJ. Motor Vehicle Crash Risk Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. JAMA Pediatr. 2017
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Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision. 

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