ADHD boosts teen driving risks

Linda Melone
Teen drivers already run an extraordinarily high risk of crashing. Add to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to the mix, and it makes matters worse.
Teen drivers with ADHD are two to four times more likely to crash than those without the condition, according to a study by the Medical University of South Carolina.
Furthermore, teens with ADHD are three times more likely to be hurt in a car crash, four times as likely to be at fault and six to eight times more likely to have their driver's licenses suspended.
The reasons? Teens with ADHD are more susceptible to driving distractions than teens without the disorder. They're also more impulsive and more likely to take risks, according to the study.
Aside from the physical danger, an ADHD diagnosis can lead to higher auto insurance premiums for teens or their parents because of the higher number of crashes, not the disorder itself.
Symptoms of ADHD, a neurological disorder, include frenzied activity, inattentiveness and impulsive behavior. Three percent to 7 percent of school-age kids have ADHD, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
The big question
A standard auto insurance application asks whether a driver is undergoing medical treatment for a physical or mental impairment, according to Tim Dodge, a spokesman for Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New York, a trade group. Therefore, a driver with ADHD must disclose the condition. If a driver with ADHD doesn't come clean, the applicant could be accused of fraud after an insurance claim is filed.
However, simply answering "yes" to the question on the application shouldn't affect a teen's insurance rates, according to David Miller, CEO of Brightway Insurance in Florida. But if a teen driver with ADHD racks up a history of auto accidents and insurance claims, auto insurance rates surely will rise. One accident typically raises a premium by 15 percent, Miller says, while a second accident bumps that number to 35 percent.
Driver's test determines insurability
Keith Verisario, vice president of All-Security Insurance Agency in Illinois, points out that if a teen with ADHD has a valid driver's license, he or she (or the parents) should be able to obtain auto insurance. That would be the same scenario for someone who's an amputee or who's on anti-seizure drugs.
"Insurance companies can't discriminate. Insurance rates would be the same for a teen whether or not the teen has ADHD," Verisario says. "However, if you start having accidents your insurer may not renew your policy. Two or more accidents could do be enough for an insurer to drop you."
A teen boy with or without ADHD faces the highest auto insurance rates in the United States, according to Verisario. The parents of a 16-year-old boy who's a new driver easily could be confronted with $1,600 more in auto insurance premiums each year; the amount varies based on your location, your credit history and other factors.
Driving tips for teens with ADHD
For a teen with ADHD, anytime that he or she spends behind the wheel should be monitored by an adult, says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, author of "A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness."
"Symptoms of ADHD can be a recipe for disaster behind the wheel," Lombardo says.
For example, a teen with ADHD might focus more on a billboard or a pedestrian than on driving the car, Lombardo says. Or the driver might become angry at a motorist who cuts him or her off and unsafely pass that car, she says.
Steps for parents of teen drivers who have ADHD include:
• Make sure your teen is taking his or her ADHD medication as prescribed. • Insist that your teen shuts off his or her cellphone while behind the wheel. • Require that a small number of people ride with your teen. • Forbid eating or drinking in the car while driving. • Set instances when the car can and cannot be used. For example, don’t let your teen drive when he or she is tired. • Help you teen cope with anger associated with driving.

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