Characterizing the Learning-to-Drive Period for Teens with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or Trouble Staying Focused

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in attention and hyperactive behavior affecting 8-10% of the population (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2014a). Recent estimates indicating that adolescents diagnosed with ADHD have a 36% higher risk of MVC (Curry et al., 2017). This risk may be especially elevated just after licensure (Curry, Yerys, Metzger, Kirk, & Power, Under review). Previous research has implicated the characteristic deficits in executive function, inattention and hyperactivity seen in ADHD as potential mechanisms for this increase in drivers’ crash risk. However, to our knowledge, no research has investigated the association of ADHD diagnosis with parent-teen communication and support during the learner period, nor has there been an in-depth investigation of how novice drivers with ADHD learn to drive more generally. The authors conducted a secondary analysis of existing data from a larger trial on parental engagement and learning to drive that involved the completion of self-report surveys every 6-weeks for 24-weeks and the completion of two on-road driving assessments (ODA) at 12 and 24 weeks during the learner’s permit period (NCT01498575) (Mirman et al., 2014; Mirman, Curry, Elliott, Long, & Pfeiffer, 2018). The authors compared teen drivers with a parent-reported ADHD diagnosis or parent-reported difficulty trouble staying focused (TSF) with typically developing (TD) teen drivers on self-reported behaviors and cognitions related to practice driving, their perceptions of the social climate with their practice supervisors, and their performance on the on-road driving assessment, which was administered by certified driver rehabilitation specialists. Teens with TSF were included to capture teens who may have subclinical levels of inattention and hyperactivity or may have clinical levels of inattention and/or hyperactivity without an ADHD diagnosis. The final analytic sample for the survey data was 369 parent-teen dyads. Of these dyads, 55 teens had ADHD or TSF, and 314 were typically developing: 85% TD, 10% ADHD, and 5% TSF. The analytic sample for the 24-week ODA analyses consisted of 134 dyads. Of these 134 dyads, 113 were typically developing (84%), 12 teens had ADHD (9%), and 9 had TSF (7%). The authors hypothesized that compared to TD teens, teens with ADHD would: (1) exhibit more driving errors on the 24 week ODA (administered just prior to licensure at the end of the 6-month holding period) and (2) have a less positive relational climate with their parent practice supervisors. Adolescents with ADHD/TSF felt less supported by their parents while learning to drive (M= 3.81, SD= 0.86; p= .029) than TD teens (M= 4.06, SD= 0.79; p=.029). Parents of TD adolescents (M= 3.61, SD= 0.71) were more confident in their teen’s driving abilities than parents of adolescents with ADHD/TSF (M= 3.37, SD= 0.77; p= .033). On the ODA, adolescents with ADHD/TSF received lower overall driving scores by the CDRS (M= 4.62, SD= 2.56) compared to TD adolescents (M= 5.39, SD= 2.06; p= .01), and committed more critical errors (M= 2.19, SD= 2.40) compared TD adolescents (M= 1.09, SD= 1.49; F(1,133)= 7.65, p= .006); see Table 1 for more detail. Differences in driver performance between ADHD/TSF adolescents and TD adolescents as early as the learner period using structured on-road assessments. These descriptive data provide an initial picture of how adolescents with ADHD/TSF and their parents experience the learner period and provide important guidance to plan future studies on driver training and assessment, as well as intervention targets to improve family support in ADHD/TSF populations.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This paper was sponsored by TRB committee ANB30 Standing Committee on Operator Education and Regulation.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Transportation Research Board

  • Authors:
    • Bishop, Haley J
    • Curry, Allison E
    • Stavrinos, Despina
    • Mirman, Jessica H
  • Conference:
  • Date: 2019


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Tables;
  • Pagination: 5p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01697717
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 19-05176
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Dec 7 2018 9:35AM