Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society



Driving in young adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Knowledge, performance, adverse outcomes, and the role of executive functioning


RUSSELL A.  BARKLEY  a1 c1, KEVIN R.  MURPHY  a1, GEORGE J.  DUPAUL  a2 and TRACIE  BUSH  a1
a1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts
a2 Department of Education and Human Services, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Abstract

Past studies find that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) creates a higher risk for adverse driving outcomes. This study comprehensively evaluated driving in adults with ADHD by comparing 105 young adults with the disorder (age 17–28) to 64 community control (CC) adults on five domains of driving ability and a battery of executive function tasks. The ADHD group self-reported significantly more traffic citations, particularly for speeding, vehicular crashes, and license suspensions than the CC group, with most of these differences corroborated in the official DMV records. Cognitively, the ADHD group was less attentive and made more errors during a visual reaction task under rule-reversed conditions than the CC group. The ADHD group also obtained lower scores on a test of driving rules and decision-making but not on a simple driving simulator. Both self- and other-ratings showed the CC group employed safer routine driving habits than the ADHD group. Relationships between the cognitive and driving measures and the adverse outcomes were limited or absent, calling into question their use in screening ADHD adults for driving risks. Several executive functions also were significantly yet modestly related to accident frequency and total traffic violations after controlling for severity of ADHD. These results are consistent with earlier studies showing significant driving problems are associated with ADHD. This study found that these driving difficulties were not a function of comorbid oppositional defiant disorder, depression, anxiety, or frequency of alcohol or illegal drug use. Findings to date argue for the development of interventions to reduce driving risks among adults with ADHD. (JINS, 2002, 8, 655–672.)

(Received July 28 2000)
(Revised July 23 2001)
(Accepted August 8 2001)


Key Words: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Driving; Executive functions; Young adults.

Correspondence:
c1 Reprint requests to: Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655. E-mail: Barkleyr@ummhc.org