November 19, 2010

Behavior Problems Could Be Dangerous Behind the Wheel

(Ivanhoe Newswire)--If your teenage boy has a behavior problem, you may want to think twice before tossing him the keys to the car.

Disruptive behavior disorders in male teenagers, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, or oppositional defiant disorder are associated with about a one-third increase in the risk of being seriously injured in a road traffic crash "“ either as driver or pedestrian. This increase is similar to the increased relative risk found for patients treated for epilepsy.

Donald Redelmeier and colleagues from the University of Toronto, found that teenage boys are the single most risky population group of drivers, with twice the collision rate of the general population, despite low amounts of driving and good general health.

The authors conducted a seven-year study in Ontario, Canada, of consecutive males between 16 and 19 years old who were admitted to hospitals as the result of a road traffic crash and those who were admitted to the same hospitals during the same time interval for appendicitis.  During the study period, 3,421 male teenagers were admitted to hospital as the result of a road traffic crash and 3,812 male teenagers were admitted to hospitals for appendicitis. A history of disruptive behavior disorders was more frequent among teenage boys admitted for road traffic crashes than controls (767 of 3421 v 664 of 3812) giving an odds ratio of 1.37.  This higher risk was still present after the authors took factors such as age, social status and home location into account.

This study did not document who was "at fault"; hence, perhaps behavioral disorders impair a teenager's ability to avoid a mishap initiated by someone else.  The authors stress that their results do not justify withholding a driver's license.  Instead, the authors suggest that disruptive behavior disorder could be considered as contributors to road traffic crashes similar to epilepsy, diabetes, and some other medical diseases.

"Greater attention by primary care physicians, psychiatrists, and community health workers might be helpful since practical recommendations might reduce the risk. Specific recommendations include avoiding excess speed, restricting alcohol, minimizing other distractions as well as using seatbelts, keeping distance from other vehicles, and obeying medical advice," the authors concluded.

SOURCE:  Public Library of Science, 2010