Strong Link Found Between ADHD And Car Crashes In Older Drivers

Older adult drivers with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a significantly higher crash risk compared with their counterparts without it. Until now, research on ADHD and driving safety was largely limited to children and young adults, and few studies assessed the prevalence of and its association with crash risk among older adult drivers.

Those are the results of a new study announced on Wednesday by researchers at Columbia University School of Public Health and published online in JAMA Network Open.

“Our findings suggest that effective interventions to improve the diagnosis and clinical management of ADHD among older adults are warranted to promote safe mobility and healthy aging,” Yuxin Liu, the first author of the study, said in a statement.

ADHD is a chronic neurodevelopmental condition with symptoms that include inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, and is commonly considered a childhood disorder, researchers noted, but it can persist into adulthood and affect daily life performances of older adults. In the U.S., the reported prevalence of ADHD in adults has increased in recent years due to improved diagnosis, they added. In general, the prevalence of ADHD decreases with advancing age.

The study, “Motor Vehicle Crash Risk in Older Adult Drivers With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,” which looked at hard- braking events, self-reported traffic ticket events, and vehicular crashes, found that older adult drivers were more than twice as likely as their counterparts without ADHD to report being involved in crashes and in receiving driving-related tickets.

ADHD was associated with a 7 % increased risk of hard-braking events, but a 74 % increased risk of self-reported vehicular crashes and a 102 % increased risk of self-reported traffic ticket events.

The researchers collected data from primary care clinics and residential communities in five 5 U.S. sites: Ann Arbor, Michigan; Baltimore, Maryland; Cooperstown, New York; Denver, Colorado; and San Diego, California between July 2015 and March 2019.

Participants in the study were drivers 65 to 79 years of age who drove regularly and who were enrolled in the Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project during and who were followed for up to 44 months through in-vehicle data recording devices and annual assessments. Data analysis was performed between July 2022 and August 2023.

The LongROAD Project launched in 2014 to understand and meet the safe mobility needs of older adult drivers.

“Our study makes two notable contributions to research on healthy and safe aging, “ Guohua Li,, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and senior author, said in a statement. “The research fills a gap in epidemiologic data on ADHD among older adults and provides compelling evidence that older adult drivers with ADHD have a much higher crash risk than their counterparts without ADHD.”

Earlier research by Dr. Li and his colleagues showed that health worsens when older adults stop driving, and early this year, the research team reported that driving data captured by in-vehicle recording devices are valid and reliable digital markers for predicting mild cognitive impairment and dementia, researchers for the most recent study noted.

“There are 48 million older adult drivers in the United States,” Dr. Li added.. “As population aging continues, this number is expected to reach 63 million in 2030. Data from the landmark LongROAD project will enable us to examine the role of medical, behavioral, environmental, and technological factors in driving safety during the process of aging.”

For more information, click here; to read the full study, click here.

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