A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving
…When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry. But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful. My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18. As the time grew closer, I researched driving schools in our area and found one that had classes onsite for the written exam, versus doing it online. Like many ADHD students, Lee needed guidance and help staying on task, plus reminders of what she’d learned. …
“Pull a U, Lee.”
“I don’t know how to!”
“Just make a sharp left turn!”
The next thing I knew, our front tires were on the sidewalk, the back of the car blocking the right lane of oncoming traffic. Fear broke out in silent ripples across Lee’s body. My heart was racing. I’d just given the keys to a two-ton SUV to my daughter, who struggled with ADHD and anxiety. Was I insane?
We lived in California and driving was a skill that cannot be underestimated. But recent statistics prove I was right to be concerned. A Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia study, published in May of 2019, stated that teens with ADHD have a 62% higher crash risk the first month after getting licensed. To top that off, 37% of people with ADHD, regardless of their age when licensed, have a higher crash risk in the first four years after getting licensed. Distractibility, Impulsivity, Hyperactivity…all good reasons why allowing your teen with ADHD to drive is a very serious decision.
When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry. But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful. My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18. As the time grew closer, I researched driving schools in our area and found one that had classes onsite for the written exam, versus doing it online. Like many ADHD students, Lee needed guidance and help staying on task, plus reminders of what she’d learned.
The driving school teacher not only made it fun, but he repeated himself over and over. He drilled the important facts until Lee had them memorized, passing the written exam. Then, the driving training began and getting Lee out of the house and into the car was the challenge. We went through four instructors who were all, for the most part, kind and aware of Lee’s anxiety. Still, whether Lee would get into the car with them was hit or miss. Finally, Holly arrived, a mom who had fostered many children with special needs and knew how to toe the line between compassion and strength.
Lee and I made it off that sidewalk, but that experience and others convinced her to go at her own pace. It took two permits over the course of a year and four months for Lee to get her license. But when she did, she had more experience than the average teen, to say the least. When it came time for Lee to choose a car, the decision was easy. The new smart cars with their flashing warning systems, despite their sticker tag, were great back-up.
When we saw her take off down our street for the first time, we felt she could handle it. The longer period of time before she drove allowed time for her brain to develop. Extra experience behind the wheel allowed Lee to gain confidence and cope as a driver when she felt anxiety. If you have a child with ADHD who is about to drive, below is the link for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia study. It’s worth the read!
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