Drivers With ADHD: Higher Risk for Crashes?
In large Swedish study, men who took their meds lowered their accident odds
Breaking down the numbers further, the researchers estimated that between 41 percent and 49 percent of the car accidents involving men with ADHD could have been avoided if they had been taking their medication as prescribed.
About three out of five children with ADHD carry the disorder with them into adulthood, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. That amounts to about 8 million adults living with ADHD.
Previous research with ADHD patients in virtual-reality driving simulators found that they are more likely to speed, drive erratically, tap the breaks and accelerate into potential accidents, said Adler, who did not take part in the Swedish research.
"These sorts of things are more likely in individuals with ADHD than in people without ADHD," he said. "This is an important study that follows up on ... some of the shorter-term studies that have shown that people with untreated ADHD have more accidents."
Although the study found an association between having ADHD and greater risk of serious car crashes, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
Adler said, however, that you don't necessarily have to fear getting into a car with a driver who has ADHD.
"With ADHD, there tend to be two groups: a group that is distracted and impulsive, and a group that drives fine. Not everyone with ADHD has this problem, but a substantial percentage does," he said. "This study highlights another reason why getting an appropriate diagnosis for adult ADHD is important, and why it is important to get the ADHD treated."
People with ADHD also should to take extra precautions that will help them keep their mind on the road, Hughes said.
"In addition to medication, this can mean limiting distractions like texting or cell phones, fewer passengers, breaking up monotonous drives with frequent breaks and being more vigilant about driving defensively," she said.