During their initial evaluation at the Atlanta Center for Adult ADHD, individuals-both young and old-often report problems with driving.These issues include close calls from changing lanes without checking for nearby cars, hitting curbs, “fender-benders”, rear-end collisions and worse.
New reseach suggests that treating ADHD effectively may help improve driving performance in young people with the condition. (It is well know that this age group has high rates of automotive crashes and speeding tickets.)
A simulated driving program, completed within a simulated automotive environment, was recently administered to participating young adults at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab.
Participants treated with Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dismesylate) for 5 weeks reacted 9% faster to startle events and were 67% less likely to have a collision during a driving simulation than those who received placebo.
This research is very consistent with our own clinical experience. In fact, we encourage patients that prefer to take medication only during the daytime to consider taking additional medication to cover evening/night hours if they plan to be driving during these times.
Patients often mention that their ADHD causes them to get speeding/red light violations and to become involved in fender-benders and other accidents. In fact, individuals with ADHD often have trouble staying “in the moment” and have a much higher risk of driving incidents as their minds begin to wonder behind the wheel. While attention during driving is usually improved with medications, driving mishaps can still persist.
The following is a simple technique that I developed to help my patients deal with this problem.
Here’s how it works: First turn off your car radio, IPod, etc. Every few minutes, quietly speak aloud your destination, the road or highway you are on, the direction you are travelling, and your general location. For example, you might say “I am focusing on driving to the airport. I am going North on I-95 and just passed exit 35.” You also can take notice of the traffic immediately around you and describe it out loud every few seconds as well to help you stay focused on your driving. You might say, for example, “There is a white van ahead of me and a blue Volkswagen to the right”. In addition, before you make a lane change, check for traffic on all sides and then say out loud, “Left lane is clear” or Right lane is clear” before actually moving into the next lane over. Finally, you can get used to saying, “Clear to back up” before backing out of a parking space to help ensure you actually check for other cars and pedestrians behind you.
In addition to helping you drive more safely, the above technique can be an effective mental exercise to improve focus in general.