Driving is a big, exciting milestone in life. Automobile keys signify liberty, accountability, and a novel form of self-reliance. However, inattentiveness, distractibility, and poor judgment are some of the signs of ADHD in children that can lead to major issues when driving.

According to research, children with ADHD are more likely to receive moving violations and speeding tickets, get into car accidents, and have their licenses revoked. How can parents assist children with ADHD in developing the skills necessary to drive safely?

Make a head start

Assisting children in becoming safe drivers begins outside of the vehicle. Early and frequent dialogue is needed regarding the relationship between ADHD and driving.

“A significant aspect of promoting robust abilities involves foreseeing the potential effects of ADHD on driving well before your child puts the key into the ignition,” says David Anderson, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “Most of the time, we wait to discuss the risks that ADHD can present until after kids have received a speeding ticket or had a minor mishap.”

The greatest strategy to prevent unfavorable effects later on is to intervene early on.

Bring up the safety concern

Talk openly and honestly about the risks involved with driving, both legal and physical, and concentrate on some of the ways that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might exacerbate situations. Young drivers with ADHD may experience spontaneous speeding or become distracted by other children in the car. By discussing these possible problems, we can help them identify problem areas before they become serious.

According to Dr. Anderson, “children with ADHD are more likely to give in to distractions across the board.” Teens are generally aware of how ADHD impacts them in their social or academic lives, so we work to assist them develop an awareness of how being easily distracted could lead to issues when driving.

Talk about certain circumstances.

Discussing potentially hazardous scenarios with your child on the couch can help them consider them before they arise in the car.

“Define your concerns, but be explicit,” advises PhD clinical psychologist Matthew Rouse. “It’s easier to remember clear expectations when there’s a lot going on,”

Talk about particular situations that worry you and then come up with some sensible fixes. Although not entirely apparent, “I’m worried about you driving safely” is truthful. Try saying something like this instead: “I know it can be difficult to ignore the phone when you get a message, but texting and driving is really dangerous.” Can we all agree that you will wait to use your phone until you reach to your destination in the glove compartment?

Typical trouble areas

  •         When driving a car with friends: Other persons in the car might be a major source of distraction. Think about implementing a no-passengers rule, but remember to review it after your daughter feels more at ease driving. Have her practice asking her friends to be quiet in the car if she’s ready to drive with them.
  •         Driving in a strange area: While it can be disorienting to be in a new place, navigational aids pose the true threat. It is not safe to look away from the road to examine a GPS or map app. You may decide that she will only use the talking navigation system when the car is moving and that she will stop before entering information into the GPS.
  •         Using a phone while operating a vehicle: Tweeting, texting, Instagramming or talking on the phone is a no. It’s risky to use a phone while operating a motor vehicle. Here’s where a lot of parents set the rules. The lure of the text message noise can be too alluring to resist, even if your adolescent has no intention of utilizing the phone. While she is driving, the phone should be kept in the glove compartment and on vibrate.
  •         Speeding is a major problem when it comes to staying safe. It may be difficult to resist the urge to speed if your son is in a rush, as children with ADHD are frequently. Be frank while discussing the negative effects of speeding, such as costly fines and fatal collisions. Avoid oversimplifying or sensationalizing. Talk about safety measures and decide on fair penalties should he disobey the rules. That way, everyone will know what to expect if he receives a ticket.
  •         Weather: You may decide that he will stop until the traffic gets better if there is a severe downpour or if there is heavy traffic. According to Dr. Anderson, “You can be sure they’re thinking about safety while they’re on the road first and foremost the more you talk and plan.”

Create a contract

After discussing the possible challenges, it’s critical to establish ground rules that are understandable and won’t be quickly abandoned. First things first: “Always, always wear your seatbelt.” Making a contract for safe driving is one method to do this.

Dr. Rouse says that having things in writing and spending some time reviewing them may be very beneficial for both parents and children. According to him, contracts may appear corny, but when executed properly, they may be rather useful. “Contracts work, even if kids are first resistant. Everyone can agree on and remember what is and isn’t safe behavior when things are put in writing.

  •         Children ought to take part in creating the contract. It’s not a command, but an agreement.
  •         Together with the children, establish fair expectations, sanctions, and rewards. A child may be able to pick up pals after school if she is ticket-free for six months. Similarly, she will be denied access to the automobile for a predetermined period of time if she fails to buckle up.
  •         Contracts ought to be very explicit and frequently reviewed.

Keep an eye on meds

Talking about medication should also be included, according to Dr. Anderson. “When the medication is wearing off, kids who take it before driving to school might need to adjust how they travel home.”

Similarly, if your child usually skips her weekend dose of medicine but still intends to drive, it may be time to discuss a schedule adjustment. Whenever her medicine is changed, she should not drive until it is evident how the new regimen will affect her.

Communicate assurance rather than fear

Lastly, provide your support and discuss other circumstances she has successfully managed in the past.

Reminding her of her accomplishments shifts the attention back to her skills rather than her obstacles. “Discuss with children about ADHD and how it can exacerbate situations in a developmentally appropriate manner, but remember to convey both assurance and worry,” advises Dr. Rouse.

Tell her that she can still become a fantastic driver despite having ADHD; she simply needs to adjust her approach and become more conscious of herself.

Dr. Anderson advises children to “remember that being cautious and smart are the hallmarks of any good driver.”

When your child starts driving, it’s acceptable to feel nervous. Just watch how you communicate that nervousness. The ultimate objective is to support her in maintaining her safety and gaining self-assurance.

In the end, Dr. Rouse explains, “we’re hope bearers.” We want to be optimistic about the future while being honest and pragmatic about the challenges.