ADHD Behind the Wheel: Teaching Attention Deficit Teens to Drive

ADHD symptoms can easily get in the way of safe driving for attention deficit teens and adults. Find out how to keep your child (and yourself!) safe on the road.

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Setting Driving Rules

Your jurisdiction may enforce "graduated license" rules in which children are granted full driving privileges in increments. If not, you can enforce restrictions yourself. The rules can be drawn up in a driving contract which parent and child can sign and may include:

-- Restrict driving to necessary expeditions such as school and team events, or after school or summer jobs.

-- No night driving for the first six months without a parent on hand.

-- Plan each trip must ahead and discussing it with the parent beforehand.

-- No passengers except parents allowed for at least the first three to six months. After that, only one passenger allowed for the first year or two. Parents should approve all passengers.

-- Zero tolerance for alcohol and drug abuse. Immediately suspend all driving privileges until your child has successfully completed a treatment program. Keep the car keys in your possession until all substance abuse issues are resolved.

-- Keep a log and check in after each trip. Teens should note where they went, how long it took, and what difficulties and distractions were encountered. Parents and teens can then discuss the log, and come up with ways to improve concentration and avoid problems.

Parents might also consider joining a monitoring program that provides "Is My Teenager Driving Safely?" bumper stickers with an 800 number that can be called by other drivers who may observe your teen driving unsafely. Having that bumper sticker on the car reminds your teen that even if you can't be there, someone else may be keeping tabs on their driving.

Given the considerable driving risks generally associated with youth and inexperience, stringent safety guidelines make good sense for kids whether or not they have ADHD. Parents of ADHD kids can begin to loosen the reins after six to twelve months of driving — when and if the teen demonstrates that he or she can drive competently and safely.

Finally, give careful thought as to whether your child is mature enough to drive. High impulsivity and bad behaviors such as temper tantrums and consistent rule breaking may indicate that your child is not ready for this responsibility.

If parents establish themselves as a partner and ally in their teenagers' driving activities, they will have gone a long way toward helping their children become responsible and skilled drivers for life.

Next: ADHD Driver Safety Tips...

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