ADHD and Texting Double Trouble for Teen Drivers
One proposed solution: technology that cuts off cellphone when engine is on
Their driving records appeared to reflect these difficulties. About 17 percent of teens with ADHD had received at least one traffic ticket compared to 6 percent of those without the disorder.
And when they were asked to text, their driving problems nearly doubled. They strayed across the lane line or onto the shoulder about 3.3 percent of the time.
"That's just a heck of a lot of time for a kid or any driver to be out of their lane when they're driving," said study author Jeffery Epstein, director of the center for ADHD at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.
The impairments of texting were evident for all drivers. When teens without ADHD were asked to text, they spent about 2 percent of their driving time creeping out of their lanes, which made their distraction as severe as those with an ADHD diagnosis.
"All the kids need to stop texting behind the wheel," Epstein said. "The impact of texting is just so big that for these kids to be texting behind the wheel just poses such a danger to themselves as well as other drivers that there just needs to be not only a policy of stopping texting behind the wheel but also enforcement," he said.
Parents play a big role in reining in the problem. Adesman recommends that parents print out and get teens to sign an online pledge, such as the one available from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and use it as a way to start a conversation about the problem.
Also recommended: cellphone apps or easy-to-install devices for cars that will shut a phone off when they detect that the car is moving, Adesman said.
The attention troubles of ADHD are harder to tackle, but Epstein said he's testing behavioral interventions that he hopes will help.
"The deficit that kids with ADHD seem to have is that they tend to let their eyes look away from the roadway for longer glances than do experienced drivers," he explained.
Epstein said that eye-tracking systems that sound an alarm or cause the car seat to vibrate when drivers look away from traffic for longer than two seconds may help kids become more aware of the problem and help them self-correct.
"Those are the sorts of things that would be interesting if they work out," he said.