10 Safe Driving Tips – For parents with young people with ADHD

This has been produced to assist you, and the young people you care for who have ADHD, to drive safely and to reduce the risk of them having a collision whilst driving a car.

Some facts about ADHD and driving

We were once asked to explain the links between ADHD and poor driving outcomes / collisions. After giving it a moment of thought the answer was:

  • Imagine someone who has compromised concentration skills
  • Add to that their inherent desire and capability act impulsively
  • Now mix in a bit of hyperactivity, whether of the mind or the body
  • Then put them behind the wheel of a half-ton, metal machine capable of 70MPH+

The links couldn’t be clearer.

So here are the Safe Driving Tips

1. Display good adult driving habits

Your children and passengers in your car have observed your driving. They have watched your every action. Is your driving good enough to be a role model? Do you use your mobile phone while driving? Do you speed excessively? Would you be comfortable if your teenager drove as you do?

2. Determine the readiness of the learner to drive

Young people with ADHD are often emotionally and functionally immature when compared to others the same age. Teenagers with ADHD, therefore, may take significantly longer to develop good judgement and a mature attitude to driving. Teenagers who have explosive tempers, are uncooperative or cannot meet their current responsibilities, are not ready to drive.

3. Ensure the learner driver fully understands the Highway Code

This will ensure that the learner driver is aware of the rules of the road before they begin driving. They will also understand why these are the rules they are expected to obey. Use an app on a smartphone to cement their learning rather than expecting them to read the Highway Code as a book.

4. Address ADHD and any other conditions or behaviour that impact on driving safely

Learning to drive safely is serious. When this is made more difficult due to ADHD, the parents and the young learner driver must make efforts to understand these complications, and work to minimise the risks involved.

5. Select driver education materials and plan the content of driving lessons

When giving private driving lessons, ensure that the lesson has been prepared beforehand. Ensure the instructor has the route planned and allotted a timescale to the lesson.

The learner driver should also be prepared by ensuring they have taken any prescribed medication and are in a suitable mental and emotional condition to concentrate.

If neither of these are in place, cancel the lesson.

6. Consider medication issues and driving safely

Research has shown that ADHD behaviours can be significantly improved with medication use. Some of the known benefits include an increase in attention span and concentration. Individuals who have been prescribed medication should only drive within the time limits of the particular medication they are taking. Do you know what they are for your child’s medication?

7. Establish and incentive scheme for driver with ADHD

Parents of children with ADHD often use incentives to encourage their children to complete a particular task. Driving is no different. Some parents also state that driving is a powerful incentive to encourage everyday behaviour. Encourage your young person to work for the privilege of driving and the responsibility attached to it, by developing a reward system.

8. Carry out the driving lesson plans

It’s common to underestimate the time needed to teach an individual to drive. A learner driver with ADHD may take at least 3 times longer to learn to drive. You should keep a log of hours and driving skills demonstrated during the lessons. This will enable you to check on progress and chart consistent faults. It will also allow the instructor to identify times of the day when the driver with ADHD performs badly and provide lessons at a more appropriate time.

9. Discuss safe driving expectations with the ADHD driver

When considering whether to allow their child to drive, parents should discuss the fact that they should not eat, drink, smoke or use their mobile telephone. If they don’t recognise this, they should not be driving.

10. Negotiate new rules after the ADHD driver has passed their test

Having passed their test, the new driver is ready to drive a car without adult supervision. Some new rules should be established before they drive alone:

  • Consider curfew times for weekdays and weekends in line with medication
  • Discuss what times of the day they can drive
  • Discuss the consequences of an accident
  • Restrict passengers, totally if possible
  • Keep a record of the person’s driving
  • Ensure they know what to do in an emergency
  • Set rules for the use of the family car
  • Include rewards for compliance
  • Enforce no drink driving rules
  • Determine who pays for petrol, insurance and fixed penalty tickets
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