Are ADHD Teens More Likely to Cause Car Accidents?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Are ADHD Teens More Likely to Cause Car Accidents?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

Experienced Attorney Helping Victims of ADHD Teen Drivers in Chicago

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is typically diagnosed in young children, but some are diagnosed in their teens or even into adulthood, depending on the level of care they receive. The numbers of teens and adults diagnosed are increasing – especially as parents, physicians, and teachers become more aware of the symptoms of ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a common behavioral disorder that is estimated to affect 10 percent of children. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed than girls – unfortunately, scientists are not sure why that is.

When someone has ADHD (whether a child or an adult), a person acts without thinking, and hyperactivity makes it difficult to focus.

There are three types of ADHD, which include:

  1. The Inattentive Type: Difficulty paying attention, errors in activities, difficulty organizing, inability to follow instructions, easily distracted, forgetfulness, tendency to lose items, listening issues, carelessness errors.
  2. The Hyperactivity and Impulsive Type: Fidgeting and squirming when told to sit still, inability to remain seated, excessive running, always talking, inability to wait for one’s turn, interrupting issues, always wants to be “on the go,” cannot play quietly.
  3. The Combined Type: Some adults and children have the combination type of ADHD, which means that they are hyperactive, distracted, impulsive, and share symptoms from both. Most people diagnosed with ADHD will have the combined form.

ADHD also causes coexisting conditions, which make teens and adults even more impulsive, have difficulty focusing, and even more of a hazard on the road. Some coexisting conditions experienced with ADHD include:

  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder: About 40 percent of individuals with ADHD also have this condition. It is more common for someone with this condition to defy the rules, have outbursts, get into trouble, and potentially have issues with the law later.
  • Mood Disorders: Approximately 20 percent of those with ADHD also suffer from a mood disorder. These mood disorders may include bipolar disorder.
  • Anxiety Disorders: About 30 percent of those with ADHD will have anxiety as well.

When diagnosed as a child, an individual may experience an increase in their ADHD symptoms and complications during puberty. The hormonal changes that occur during the teen years can increase the severity of ADHD symptoms, and for some, they may become increasingly worse even if they are taking medication.

How ADHD Increases a Teen’s and Adult’s Likelihood of Being in an Accident

ADHD poses special risks while driving. Those with ADHD are two to four times more likely to be in a vehicle accident compared to those without ADHD, says WebMD.

These teens could be at risk for impulsive behavior behind the wheel; they could take severe risks, use immature judgment, and even seek thrills. These traits are high-risk for those on the road with the individual who has ADHD.  Also, those with ADHD are more likely to be heavy drinkers, and they could experience problems from their drinking.

Drivers with ADHD More Prone to Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving is dangerous, and those with ADHD are prone to spells of aggressive driving, impulsive behavior, and outbursts. When a driver becomes aggressive, he or she may become easily enraged at a driver going too slow, when passing vehicles, etc. This may force the driver to become reckless, such as speeding, cutting off other drivers, slamming on the brakes, and tailgating.

These behaviors could lead to a serious accident that causes injuries or even fatalities.

Hyperfocusing and ADHD Drivers

Hyperfocus is a common symptom of ADHD. A person with ADHD may intensely focus on something and ignore everything else around him or her. While this sounds like it would make an ADHD driver safer, it makes him or her more dangerous. For example, a hyperfocused driver may focus on the fact that he or she was just cut off by another driver. He or she will not forget about it or let it go. He or she starts to ignore everything else, including pedestrians. While ignoring, the driver runs over a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

Those with ADHD are easily consumed with their thoughts, and when they hyperfocus on those thoughts, they care about very little around them. This is an extremely dangerous symptom to experience while driving, and most definitely could lead to an accident.

Impulsiveness and ADHD Drivers

An impulsive driver can be just as dangerous as a distracted or hyperfocused driver. When people have ADHD, they can be frustrated easily, and that frustration leads to impulsive behavior, such as aggressive driving, random speed changes, and quick or unexpected maneuvers.

Are ADHD Treatments Effective?

There is no cure for ADHD; however, there are ways to control the symptoms. Those with ADHD must often undergo extensive counseling, change their diets, and take medication. Most ADHD medications are stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall. These medications help those with ADHD stay focused and not tune into the distractions.

Stimulants are traditionally effective in 70 to 80 percent of those with ADHD. These medications will help a driver with ADHD focus on the road, and the medication will help him or her stay patient, while reducing impulsive behavior.

Despite treatments being successful, there are those who will not take medication for their ADHD.

ADHD is Not an Excuse from Liability

When people cause accidents, they are liable for the damages they cause. However, a person with a medical condition may be inclined to argue that the condition was to blame. While it may sound like a great defense, using a medical condition as a defense can hinder one’s process of having the case dismissed.

The courts do not care if one has a medical condition. Instead, they consider that admission more on the plaintiff’s side, because if one has a medical condition, he or she should be able to control it to drive safely and provide the standard of care that is expected. When he or she cannot do so, he or she should not drive. A person with ADHD who is diagnosed and receiving treatment cannot escape liability merely because of having ADHD. Instead, he or she either controls the ADHD or does not drive.

The exception to this rule is when people suffer from a medical condition, but they are unaware that they have one. For example, a person has a heart condition, but he or she has not been diagnosed. While driving, he or she suffers from a heart attack that causes a wreck. While the driver had a condition, he or she was unaware of that condition; therefore, he or she was not failing to provide the standard level of care.

When an ADHD Driver Refuses to Take Medication

If drivers have ADHD and refuse to take medication, then get behind the wheel and cause a serious accident, would they be liable?

The defense team for the ADHD driver may try to argue that the driver was reckless because of the ADHD; therefore, the driver should not be responsible for the accident or any injuries that were a result.

The reality, however, is there are millions of people with ADHD and other disorders that make it hard to drive. However, they drive safely each day. A medical condition never excuses poor driving or reckless driving behavior.

All drivers are required to follow the traffic laws and basic etiquette rules of the road, which means driving responsibly. A medical condition is not a valid excuse for causing an accident. If the driver was diagnosed with ADHD, he or she is aware of the condition.

An ADHD driver who causes an accident is just as liable as any other driver. After all, those with a seizure disorder would be held responsible if their disorder caused an accident and they knew that they had a dangerous impairment.

Safe Driving Tips for Those With ADHD

Those affected by ADHD can still drive safely, and they can work on improving their driving skills to increase their safety on the road. Some things they can do to limit the likelihood of an accident include:

  • Reducing distractions in the vehicle as much as possible. That includes not changing the radio, working with the GPS, or having a conversation.
  • Understanding the traffic laws of the area and obeying them.
  • Attending a driver’s education program aimed at teaching those with ADHD to drive safely.
  • Working with a healthcare provider and following all ADHD-prescribed medication instructions.
  • Attending counseling sessions to work on coping with the symptoms of ADHD.
  • Discussing additional insurance coverage.

Injured by a Driver with ADHD? Contact a Chicago Accident Attorney Immediately

If you or a loved one suffered injuries because of a teen or adult suffering from ADHD, you might still have a claim against that driver for negligence. Contact the attorneys at Malman Law in Chicago today to schedule a free consultation. You can schedule by calling us or completing our online contact form.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

What’s your case worth? Submit for a free case review


This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

Related Blog Posts

view all news