Teenage Driving Impaired Greatly Due ToMix Of ADHD, Texting
August 13, 2013

Teenage Driving Impaired Greatly Due To Mix Of ADHD, Texting

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Teenagers already have a reputation as being the worst drivers, but a new study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reveals two reasons why that might be so. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, suggests that both attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and texting both significantly impair driving performance for teenagers.

The research team used a driving simulator to test the driving performance of 16- to 17-year-old drivers. Of the 61 participants, approximately half had ADHD; the other half did not. As they texted and talked on the phone, the researchers measured the speed and lane position of the young drivers during the 40-minute driving simulation.

The team found that texting significantly affected drivers' speed and lane position for all study participants. The risk for drivers with ADHD was further increased.

"Texting is especially dangerous because it involves visual, manual and cognitive distractions," said Jeffery N. Epstein, PhD, director of the Center for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder at Cincinnati Children's. "Those are the very kinds of distractions that lead to car accidents."

"Driving deficits related to ADHD appear to impact specific driving behaviors, namely, variability in speed and lane position. Because both maintaining a consistent speed and central, consistent lane position require constant attention to the road and one's surroundings, the pattern of our findings are not surprising."

Even when no distractions were present, the team found that drivers with ADHD demonstrated significantly more variability in speed and lane position than teens without the disorder. Texting added to existing ADHD impairments, the study showed, basically doubling the amount of time that kids with and without ADHD strayed from their lane.

This study is thought to be the first to investigate the effects of texting on driving performance for adolescent drivers with ADHD.

"Teens as a group are already at increased risk of distracted driving accidents. Now we know that an ADHD diagnosis and texting while driving increase those risks," added Dr. Epstein. "Our results demonstrate the need for increased education and enforcement of regulations against texting while driving for this age group."

The study found no evidence of ADHD-related deficits for average speed, braking reaction time, or likelihood of crash.