Mental Health Issues Increase Driving ErrorsApril 20, 2018
According to a new study, published in the journal Nursing Research, newly licensed teen drivers who suffer from certain mental health issues are at an increased risk of being involved in a car accident. Conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder can affect a teen driver’s ability to keep his or her attention focused on the road. As a result, they may be more likely to make driving errors, and engage in risky behavior while behind the wheel.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found a link between inattention and an increase in driving errors in the driving simulator.
Further, participants answered a questionnaire about their symptoms of hyperactivity and conduct disorder, as well as how often they engage in risky driving behaviors.
Highlights from the Study
There were 60 participants in the study, all of whom were between 16 and 17 years old, and who received their driver’s license within the past 90 days. A high-fidelity driving simulator evaluated their ability to respond to a range of common car accident scenarios that were largely avoidable. In addition, the participants filled out a questionnaire about whether they engage in risky driving behavior like speeding, driving at night with other teens in the car, or failing to wear a seatbelt.
Researchers also evaluated mental health symptoms, focusing on the top three conditions that can lead to risky driving, including ADHD, conduct disorder, and depression. The participants’ parents also filled out a questionnaire that provided additional information about their child’s mental health.
Teens who had higher scores for inattention had a higher rate of driving errors. In addition, teens who scored higher for hyperactivity/impulsivity and conduct disorder also received higher scores for risky driving behaviors. However, those who scored higher for depression made fewer errors in the driving simulator.
Overall, teens who had symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity had the highest rate of risky driving behaviors.
These study results are significant, because car wrecks are the leading cause of death among teens. Yet there is little information about how mental health impacts crash risk. Teens who suffer from conditions like ADHD or conduct disorder may lack self-control in certain situations.
When operating a motor vehicle, these young adults are at greater risk of being involved in a car accident. To reduce this risk, adolescents should receive counseling that addresses any specific mental health issues. This can help them remain more focused and calm when they get behind the wheel.
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