Prepare Your ADHD Driver for Traffic Stops
“Keep your hands visible on the steering wheel at all times and cooperate.” Dealing with police during traffic stops can be stressful and even dangerous for new drivers with ADHD. Teach your teen how to stay calm and focused.
Teen drivers who have ADHD are more likely to encounter police at traffic stops than are their neurotypical peers. Studies have shown that young drivers with ADHD face an elevated risk for moving violation citations, and for serious traffic accidents. This is likely due to ADHD’s symptoms of distractibility, inattention, and impulsivity.
Encounters with law enforcement officials can be very stressful, and even dangerous, for people with ADHD who struggle to control emotions and impulses. It’s wise for parents and young drivers to prepare for this scenario before teens get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Here are some tips to help young motorists stay calm and focused:
- Once you become aware that police want to stop you (you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror), make sure to stop or pull over in a safe place. Pause and take a deep breath. Keep your hands visible on the steering wheel at all times and cooperate. Talking in a disrespectful manner, or being uncooperative, will make things worse and could be dangerous.
- The officer will likely ask you, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Don’t guess. Just say, “” Once the officer has told you, don’t argue and don’t offer any information.
- If you are younger than age 18 and were stopped for a suspected infraction and taken to a police station, ask to call your parents. Have them or an attorney talk on your behalf. In the meantime, be quiet and respectful.
- If you were involved in an accident and taken to a police station for questioning, and you forgot to take your medication, tell the officer and your parents that you need your meds. This increases focus and controls impulsivity. Without it, you are much more likely to blurt something that may not be true or complete.
- If you believe that you or your teen driver could be stopped by police due to racial bias, you should retain an attorney in advance. If you or your teen do end up at a police station, you can provide officers with the attorney’s contact information—which your teen should always carry.
- If your teen is at a police station, bring their medication in the prescription bottle to the station. As soon as you arrive, request to speak with the officer in charge. Explain that your child has ADHD and needs their medication, and also ask to see them. Request that they not be questioned unmedicated and without counsel. Get the name of the officer to whom you made this request and note the time the request was made.
For families with young drivers who have ADHD, it is important to find an attorney who is knowledgeable about ADHD.
Young Drivers with ADHD: Next Steps
- Download: Driving Contract Template
- Read: Driving Safety Tips for Teens
- Read: Your Legal Rights: ADHD and the Law
Rosemary Hollinger, J.D., is an attorney. She specializes in coaching lawyers with ADHD.
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