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Biking Accidents: Why Children with ADHD Have More of Them

Children with ADHD have more bicycle accidents than non-ADHD children, and a new study hopes to decipher specific symptoms to find out why.

Past studies have repeatedly found that children with ADHD have more bicycle accidents than their non-ADHD peers. This is no laughing matter, since bicycle accidents are one of the leading causes of injury in children, and send 400,000 children to the emergency room each year in the United States alone. Now, a new study may have found out why kids with ADHD struggle more to stay safe on their bicycles – giving parents tools to help their child avoid injury, researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Iowa studied how 63 children – 27 of whom had ADHD – reacted to obstacles in a realistic biking simulation. They found that ADHD symptoms like distractibility and impulsivity manifested themselves in specific ways, creating accident patterns for children with ADHD. Children who suffered from inattention, for example, struggled to accurately time their entry into a busy roadway, leading to more “close calls” with the simulated cars. Children with more severe hyperactive or impulsive symptoms tended to choose smaller gaps in traffic, even when traffic was light – putting them at unnecessary risk, researchers say.

The good news? Parents could eventually use this information to teach children bike safety tips tailored more to their specific symptoms, researchers say. More work is needed to find specific strategies, but Molly Nikolas, one of the study’s coauthors, suggests that parents start by encouraging their children to look for bigger gaps between obstacles, no matter their predominant symptoms.

“Even if their timing remains off, if they have a big enough gap, they will be OK,” said Nikolas. “If we can have some intervention or prevention strategies that focus on the decision making, that may help compensate for the timing deficit.”

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