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ADD AND THE NEW DRIVER
Many teen-agers begin to think about a driver’s license as they approach
their 16th birthday. They see it as a right, and rarely wonder if they are ready
for the responsibility. However, there are certain characteristics that need
to be understood and controlled before the ADD teen gets behind the wheel. This
is because studies of ADD drivers clearly point to an increase in accidents
in new ADD drivers, particularly if they are unmedicated.
I think that adults survive when they drive based on maturity and experience,
while teenagers survive on rapid reflexes. The adult plans ahead, leaves space
between themselves and the car in front, and tries to be aware of the cars,
traffic lights etc. that make up the driving scene around them.
Now consider the ADD teen driver. They are easily distracted, possibly impulsive,
and often unfocused on all that is going on around them. Add to this loud music
and a car full of kids talking, and you can see why accidents are quite possible.
As of January 1, 2004 the State of Connecticut will help out. For the first
three months they will only be allowed one passenger, and that passenger must
be a parent or someone who has had a license for at least four years. During
the second three months, they may have multiple passengers, but only if they
are immediate family. There are no restrictions after six months. This law,
which is for all new teen drivers, can be particularly helpful for the ADD driver.
However, I do not know if other States have some type of restriction.
The hope is that distractions will be reduced, and the potential for accidents
lessened as time goes by. But let us consider driving with or without State
limitations, and the fact that after six months the teen is on his/her own.
I think there are very real concerns to be addressed as the ADD driver begins.
There are, therefore, several things to do. One is that the parents should talk
with the driver and review the possible problems due to ADD. It is not likely
that the driving instructor will do this, and the teen probably blows it off
if they think about the potential problems at all.
Next is to set up the rule that the new driver MUST be on medication while
driving. This requires planning as to the time the medication is used. It may
also involve getting a short acting form of the medication to be used for driving.
This, of course, depends on what is being used and when. As an example, consider
RitalinLA. This is effective until about 3 PM. That may be enough for a student
at school, but the situation changes if driving is going to take place in the
On occasion I have brought up the topic with parents. Some listen, but others
tell me what a good driver their child is or will be. Sad to say, fender benders
occur when you don’t pay attention, good driver or not.
Probably of more importance is the potential for a serious accident. This is
always a parent’s worry, and if the potential for an accident can be reduced
that would make everyone feel better. Therefore, I urge that the ADD be understood
and distractions such as a car full of kids strictly limited. Also, be sure
the teen takes medication at least half an hour before driving. Logical thinking
and statistical studies indicate these will help reduce the problem.
Don’t ignore them!