What About ADHD Teens and Driving?

This is one of the most common questions asked of me by parents of teenagers who have ADHD.

 "Should I let my teen drive when he turns 16? He seems so immature. But it would mean so very much to him."

Wait. Where did our wisdom as parents go? Should we let an immature 16 year old, with poor impulse control and poor judgment get behind the wheel of a 3000 pound vehicle and drive at 65 miles per hour through town? Ummm, no.

Since ADHD teens typically have emotional, physical, and developmental delays of from 3 to 6 years, compared to their peers, allowing a 16 year old with ADHD to drive your car is roughly the same as letting an 11 year old drive your car. You can expect to get the same results. What would you expect the results of an 11 year old driving your car around the city be? Tickets? Accidents? Yes!

And teenagers with ADHD have 400% more tickets and traffic accidents than do teens without ADHD. This is exactly the results that you would expect to get because of the developmental delays.

Hyperactive ADHD'er are stimulated by speeding. And speeding results in tickets and in accidents.

Inattentive ADHD'er tend to get lost, and tend to run out of gas often, and tend to not watch out for the "other guy." They will have more than their share of fender benders in parking lots. Be sure they always have a charged cell phone with them so that they can call you when they run out of gas, and are lost.

Try to wait until your ADHD teen is at least 18 before you let them drive, if you can. It is a SAFETY issue for them, and for others. To learn more about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and your teen, visit us at the ADHD Information Library at

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of Incorporated.

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