ADHD youth no more at risk for traffic violations than non-ADHD youth

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Traffic lights

A recent University of Waterloo study showed that youth with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are no more at risk of incurring traffic violations than their non-ADHD counterparts, contrary to previously published studies.

The three factors that did increase the odds for traffic violations among youth with ADHD were: Being 20-29 years of age, being male, and being white – similar to findings from the general population.

“The finding that youth with ADHD are not more likely to report a traffic violation is useful information for health professionals who can focus on other more relevant risk factors when identifying young people at risk,” said Mark Ferro, a professor in Waterloo’s School of Public Health and Health Systems and Canada Research Chair in Youth Mental Health. 

“There is emerging evidence that interventions such as computer-based driver training can improve driving performance of youth with or without ADHD. In addition to dialogues regarding driving safety, health professionals can offer these interventions broadly to all youth.”

Ferro said that previous studies were typically not representative of the population. “They consisted mainly of small, clinical samples of youth with more severe ADHD, which led to findings showing large differences in driving outcomes when compared to youth without ADHD. In addition, many studies were conducted prior to the wide implementation of graduated licensing systems for new drivers.”

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder usually diagnosed in childhood with symptoms such as inattention and low impulse control, which have been thought to lead these youth to engage in risky behaviours, including unsafe driving practices.

This study investigated the association between ADHD and traffic violations in the previous year among youth and young adults. Researchers examined responses from more than 9,200 respondents between the ages of 15-39 and found that individuals with ADHD are not an at-risk group for traffic violations. Notably, the simultaneous presence of another condition, such as physical, mood, or substance use problems, did not affect this finding.

Data come from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health, a cross-sectional epidemiological study conducted by Statistics Canada. The study, "Traffic Violations among Young People with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder," was published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry by Ferro and School of Public Health and Health Systems Professor Scott Leatherdale.