ADHD and Accidents: How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Injury?
Both children and adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more prone to getting into accidents than the average person. Someone I know who has ADHD almost fell off of a climbing wall and later flipped onto his helmeted head from a bicycle, both during gym class. Several studies have shown that drivers with ADHD are perhaps 50% more likely to get into car accidents than those without the condition.1 There are a number of reasons for these results and, fortunately, a few things that can be done to address these risks of accidents with ADHD.
Why Is There a Connection Between ADHD and Accidents?
Though I am mostly focusing on driving, many of these problems and solutions can be tweaked to apply to other activities= such as climbing or bicycling. Also, while not everyone with ADHD is uncoordinated or a bad driver, those who struggle might do so for several reasons:
- Emotionality: People with ADHD tend to have strong, sometimes unmanageable, emotional reactions to their environment. Many, including myself, struggle with anxiety and/or anger. On the road, road rage and overwhelming emotions can lead to dangerous driving.2
- Impulsivity: Apparently, drivers with ADHD more often speed and “drive erratically”.3 Though I am a careful person, I occasionally throw caution to the wind if something strikes me as urgent (Adult ADHD and Urgency: Dealing with a Now or Never Impulse). The impulsive and impatient tendencies of ADHDers can also lead to reckless driving.
- Distractibility: Though driving, along with other tasks, becomes routine after a while, it is still important to focus. By definition, those with ADHD have trouble directing their attention, making them more susceptible to becoming distracted by passengers or their phone.
- Sustained Attention: Doing the same thing for miles on end can bore anyone, especially ADHDers. Add our tendency to hyperfocus on a single thing, and ADHD drivers’ attention can stray or redirect from an important task. This can result in slower reaction times and not noticing objects and signs.
- Multitasking: Problems with memory and focus make multitasking a challenge for ADHDers. Driving requires the ability to simultaneously manage and prioritize numerous tasks, which can create an overstimulating experience for someone with ADHD.
Reducing the Risk of Accidents When You Live with ADHD
The following is a collection of driving tips for those who need it:
- Practice driving. Some suggest learning to drive relatively early.4 If possible, drive with a capable driver who is also calm and communicative. You might even want to take extra classes or talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of accidents. The more you drive under good conditions, the more comfortable you will become and the more automatic your reactions will be.
- Take medication. Several tests suggest that ADHD medication can reduce car accidents by at least 50% for men.3 (Incidentally, doctors speculate that women with ADHD are less at risk of car accidents.4) Still, both men and women should take their ADHD medication if it improves their overall wellbeing, which should also boost their driving skills.
- Mentally prepare. If necessary, take anger management classes and practice meditation. Take deep breaths before and during driving. Remember to prioritize safety and survival above all else, even over getting to an appointment on time.2
- Keep engaged. Take breaks on long trips. Some with ADHD prefer using a manual transmission to automatic because it requires more focus and engagement. In her article Adult ADHD and Driving Tips, Elizabeth Prager suggests listening to audiobooks.
- Reduce distractions. If you listen to music, try not to change the radio station. Turn off phone notifications. Figure out directions ahead of time and leave plenty of time to travel. Use audio rather than visual navigation systems.5
- Be familiar. Familiarize yourself with driving laws, car insurance policies, and your car's condition. This can be difficult for ADHDers, but this knowledge should help reduce stress and road rage.6
Please let me know if you have developed any habits to guard against accidents. Thank you for visiting, and I hope some of this advice helps.
- Jerome, Laurence, What We Know About ADHD and Driving Risk. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Nov. 2006.
- Emmerson, Jeff, The Startling Truth About Driving With Adult ADHD. Everyday Health, Feb. 2014.
- Thompson, Dennis, Drivers With ADHD: Higher Risk for Crashes? WebMD, Jan. 2014.
- Scutti, Susan, Medication slashes crash risk for drivers with ADHD, study finds. CNN, May 2017.
- APA Staff, ADHD and Increased Risk of Accidents. American Psychiatric Association, Oct. 2016.
- CHADD, ADHD and Driving. Accessed May 2018.
Matteson, N. (2018, May 15). ADHD and Accidents: How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Injury?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingwithadultadhd/2018/5/adhd-accidents-safety