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» ADHD and Driving: Safety Tips

ADHD and Driving: Safety Tips

It’s summertime! Time for roadtrips and school vacation – which means more driving for teens and adults with ADHD.

The symptoms of ADHD – especially the combination of impulsivity, distractibility, and inattention – lend themselves to greater risk of accidents, tickets and errors in driving (view our blog on ADHD and Driving – Risks and Strategies). So before you pack up the car or hand your keys over to your teenager, check the tips below to improve the safety for drivers with ADHD:

1)    Use a manual transmission. This practice has been shown to increase alertness and engagement among drivers with ADD.

2)    Wear a seatbelt – and make sure other passengers do as well.

3)    Avoid use of the cell phone, of course. Even hands-free phones can limit attention to the road and increase the risk of an accident. Turning the phone completely off while driving can help avoid the temptation to check a text or pick-up the phone when someone calls.

4)    Don’t eat while driving. Opening bottles or wrappers, maneuvering a sandwich or burger, even unwrapping a stick of gum reduces focus on driving. Pull off the road if you need to eat something.

5)    Don’t “drink and drive” – this can only exacerbate safety concerns for any driver, and more-so with ADHD.

6)    Set-up your audio needs before you drive. Listen to music if it aids attention, but don’t change stations, fiddle with an i-pod, or adjust volume and balance while driving. It’s safest to set up your audio choices before pulling onto the road, and to pull over again if you want to make changes.

7)    Don’t watch a video! If passengers in the car are watching a video, make sure you can’t see the screen. If the audio is distracting, ask that the volume be kept down or earphones be used.

8)    Select passengers in relation to safety. Moms with ADD may be better off not driving the carpool of noisy children. Teens with ADHD may benefit from driving with a mature friend who will encourage attention to the road, but shouldn’t drive with any friends that might be distracting, or worse yet, encourage risky behavior.

9)    Plan your route in advance. Use of a “talking” GPS system can be especially useful because it prevents the need to look away from traffic to read written directions.

10) Develop strategies to increase attention in potentially monotonous driving situations, such as a long highway drive. Listening to up-beat, lively music, frequent stops for exercise, or a companion to trade-off driving with, can all help assure a safe drive.

Finally, should any problems arise, be prepared.

1)    Have your driver’s license and insurance information with you any time you drive.

2)    Note on your calendar when your license, and registration need to be renewed. Note when to pay your car insurance.

3)    Consider carrying a roadside safety kit in the trunk of your car “just in case.”

4)    And here’s a zinger: be aware that behaviors typical of ADHD often mimic signs of driving while intoxicated (DUI). Examples include difficulty sustaining attention, trouble following a long string of rules, and interrupting. Should an officer stop you and think you may be driving drunk, tell the officer that you have ADHD. It’s not an excuse for poor driving, but – if you are not drunk – you can better defend yourself against a DUI conviction if you’ve made your diagnosis clear. (For more information on this issue, see David S. Katz’s article “ADHD and Driving” in The Champion, April 2013, p.44 at http://www.nacdl.org/Champion.aspx?id=27989)

So, when handing your teen the car keys this summer, or when preparing for that trip to the beach yourself, make sure you’ve taken care of the following: thorough drivers training, time to set-up carefully for safety before pulling onto the road, and advance preparation for emergencies. Then, don’t forget the sunscreen!


Laurie Dupar, Senior Certified ADHD Coach and trained Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, specializes in working with clients who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and want to finally understand how their brain works, minimize their challenges and get things done! Through individual/group coaching, live speaking, and her writing, she helps clients and their loved ones use effective strategies to minimize their ADHD challenges so they can experience success. She is the co-author and editor of 365+1 Ways to Succeed with ADHD and author of Brain Surfing and 31 Other Awesome Qualities of ADHD. For more information, please visit https://www.coachingforadhd.com.

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