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Adults with ADHD could be more likely to have a car accident, study finds

Researchers say the condition may contribute to riskier driving practices

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While many consumers associate attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with young kids, a new study is exploring how such symptoms can affect consumers into adulthood. 

According to researchers, car crashes are more likely for those who experience ADHD symptoms beyond childhood and into adulthood. 

“ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder,” said researcher Arunima Roy, PhD. “Between five and 75 percent of children with ADHD can continue to have the disorder into adulthood. Extant research shows that ADHD is associated with more traffic violations, speeding violations, license suspensions, and risky driving behaviors.” 

Taking more risks behind the wheel

To understand how ADHD symptoms can affect consumers’ driving abilities, the researchers compared the driving outcomes of those with ADHD and those without ADHD. They followed the participants from childhood through their mid-twenties, tracking their ADHD symptoms and driving records when applicable. 

The study revealed that the risk of car crashes was much higher when ADHD symptoms carried over into adulthood. Compared to adults with no history of ADHD, car crashes were nearly twice as likely for those with long-term symptoms. In cases where ADHD symptoms tapered off after childhood, the risk of car crashes was the same as for those who never had ADHD. 

While these additional risks associated with driving are certainly a cause for concern, the researchers also found that adults with lingering ADHD symptoms can be affected in their day-to-day lives in other ways. 

“The likelihood of risky driving behavior increases with persistence of childhood ADHD symptoms into adulthood,” said Dr. Roy. “Prior research from our group as well as by others also shows that, aside from driving behaviors, a persistence of ADHD into adulthood can impair functioning in other domains. These domains can include occupational performance, educational attainment, emotional functioning, substance use, and justice involvement.” 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings illuminate the risks associated with long-term ADHD symptoms, as consumers could be affected in more ways than many may realize. 

“Clinicians must keep in mind the long-term effects of childhood ADHD on quality of life while attending to patients and take a holistic approach to treatment and management,” said Dr. Roy. 

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