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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Teens, Driving, and ADHD

Consider Your Teen's Maturity continued...

There's no test that shows whether a teen with ADHD is ready to drive. But life skills tests, given by a psychologist or other health professional, can be used to rate a teen's capacity for adult decision making.

"Formal life skills tests are really helpful in determining what a teen's working with," Monahan says.

It may be tough to tell your teen that he or she is not ready to drive, but it may be the right thing to do.

They might be able to master the skills taught in a classroom, but if they lack good judgment, a driver's license should wait.

"The more you can delay it, the better," Cox says.

6 Tips for the Road

These six strategies may help you help your teen with ADHD get used to driving.

  1. Choose a manual transmission. Teens with ADHD said they felt more attentive while driving a stick shift, Cox found in a small study he published in 2006.
  2. Drive safely yourself. Monahan likes to have parents of her students ride in the back seat while she's teaching. That way they can learn exactly what's expected of the teen driver. Then the whole family practices what they've learned. "Parents have to be really motivated to adopt good driving behavior."
  3. Pick your teen's passengers. Cox points out that mature friends can help focus a less-attentive driver by warning them to keep their eyes on the road, while other friends may do nothing but act as dangerous distractions and should be kept out of the car.
  4. Consider driver rehab. Rehab courses often supplement standard driver ed. They focus on the individual teen's attention, judgment, and impulsivity issues as they relate to driving. Some programs are designed for teens with ADHD. "There's such a demand from parents," Monahan says.
  5. Limit distractions as much as possible. Cell phones belong in the trunk, so that teen drivers are not tempted to talk or text while behind the wheel, Cox says.
  6. Give them the time they need to learn. Teens with ADHD should undergo as much as 2 years of supervised driving, by a parent, an instructor, or, ideally, both. "Learning often takes a lot longer than parents think it will," Monahan says.
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Reviewed on April 09, 2013

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