The symptoms of ADHD may make driving difficult. Although many people who have ADHD are safe drivers, people who have ADHD have an increased risk of causing car accidents.

Driving involves many cognitive functions. You have to focus, be observant, react quickly, and coordinate your movements, all while following the rules of the road. Because attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect certain cognitive functions, it can also affect your driving.

Research shows that people who have ADHD are more likely to cause motor vehicle accidents. This likelihood may be because ADHD can affect your ability to concentrate, control impulses, and ignore distractions.

Not all people who have ADHD are risky drivers, and many of them drive safely and carefully. The available research shows that ADHD treatments — which may include prescription medication and therapy — can lower your risk of being in a car accident.

Language matters

You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, using the terms “man” and “woman” in the discussion of research.

Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

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Research suggests that people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to be in and cause motor vehicle accidents.

A large 2021 study, which looked at 114,486 people who have ADHD diagnosed, revealed that people who have ADHD are more likely to be in transport accidents.

Additionally, one of the most extensive studies on ADHD and driving was a 2014 study based in Sweden. The study tracked the driving records of more than 17,408 people who have ADHD between 2006 and 2009. The study found that having ADHD increases a man’s risk of being in an accident by 47% and increases a woman’s risk by 45%.

The 2014 study also found that men who have ADHD reduced their risk of being in a car accident by 58% when they took ADHD medications as prescribed.

A 2019 review of studies looked at factors that could contribute to the link between ADHD and car accidents. The review specifically looked at young people who have ADHD.

The study identified the following potential factors:

  • Inattention: ADHD can impair your ability to concentrate, which leaves you open to distraction and makes it harder to be observant.
  • Dysregulation of waking systems: Drivers who have ADHD are more likely to feel sleepy at the wheel, according to the study, which may be because ADHD is linked with sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness.
  • Use of social networking sites while driving: Studies suggest people who have ADHD are more likely to use social media while driving, which slows their response time.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsivity is related to ADHD. Impulsive symptoms may lead to reckless driving behavior such as speeding, phone use, and disobeying traffic laws.
  • Substance misuse: Substance misuse is more common among people who have ADHD. Using substances while driving impairs your ability to drive safely.
  • Aggression: Some research suggests people who have ADHD are more likely to act aggressively while driving.

The study noted that drug treatments and behavior modification programs, which may include therapy, can improve driving.

Is ADHD more likely to cause reckless driving?

Yes, research suggests that people who have ADHD are more likely to engage in reckless driving and end up in accidents. Reckless driving may include driving too fast, using your phone while driving, or disobeying road rules.

The likelihood doesn’t mean that all people with ADHD are reckless drivers but that the symptoms linked with ADHD can lead to accidents.

Teenagers who have ADHD can be safe drivers, but people with ADHD are at a higher risk of driving recklessly. A 2020 study of 274 participants found that young people who have ADHD symptoms were more likely to be in a traffic accident.

In a 2019 paper on teenage drivers who have ADHD, experts recommend that parents don’t discourage children who have ADHD from getting their license, as they may end up driving without a license. Additionally, they may miss the opportunity to practice driving in a safer environment.

The above-mentioned expert paper, and a different 2019 review of studies, found that certain prevention methods could reduce the risk of reckless driving in young people who have ADHD.

These prevention methods include:

  • prescription medication for ADHD, such as Adderall, Concerta, or Vynase
  • practicing driving in safe, low-traffic environments
  • increased support and observance from caregivers
  • computerized driver simulation programs
  • psychoeducation, in which you learn more about your symptoms and how to manage them

If you’re the caregiver of a teenager who has ADHD, your support can go a long way in helping them. The 2019 paper found that the transition to driving can be a bonding experience for parents and teens, which can improve family life while also improving the teen’s driving skills.

Yes, car insurance can be more expensive when you have ADHD, but different insurance providers use different requirements to determine their rates. If your ADHD has been diagnosed, it’s best to discuss it with an insurance provider.

If you’ve had an accident in the past, car insurance companies will typically charge you higher rates.

Yes. In fact, prescription medication can reduce your risk of being in an accident if you have ADHD.

Experts estimate that about 22% of car accidents involving people who have ADHD could have been avoided if the person had been using medication.

For some people, ADHD medication causes side effects such as nausea, fatigue, and headaches, which may also impair their ability to drive.

If your medication isn’t working for you, speak with a psychiatrist. You may benefit from a change to your dose or medication.

Having ADHD doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be a reckless driver. As an expert panel emphasizes in the above-mentioned 2019 paper, people who have ADHD can be safe and competent drivers.

Drivers who have ADHD can follow the following precautions to increase safety:

  • Take your medication as prescribed: Give yourself enough time for the medication to kick in before you start driving.
  • Turn off cruise control: Research shows people who have ADHD are more likely to lose focus in low-stimulation settings. Cruise control reduces driver engagement, making it easier for your mind to wander.
  • Drive a manual transmission vehicle (stick): Because driving a stick shift requires more engagement, your attention is less likely to drift from driving.
  • Avoid using your phone while driving: Consider putting your phone on silent when you’re driving.
  • Use active scanning to stay alert and observant while driving: For example, use a sequence where you look ahead, check mirrors, look ahead, check side traffic, look ahead, check the speedometer, and so forth.

While learning to drive, try to practice in low risk settings (low-traffic areas, during daylight, or when it’s not raining). Regular driving practice can build your skills and confidence.

Although having ADHD increases your risk of being in a car accident, not all people who have ADHD drive recklessly. It’s important to be aware of your symptoms and how they may affect your driving.

If you have ADHD, prescription medication can improve your driving and decrease your risk of being in an accident. Additionally, safe driving tips can help people who have ADHD remain alert and observant on the road.