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News and information from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Driven to distraction: PSU researcher finds ADHD not addressed in driver education class

With driving distractions around us all the time – from ringing cell phones to fast food lunches to rubbernecking at traffic accidents – it can be a challenge for the average person to fully concentrate every time they’re behind the wheel.

But throw Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and inexperienced driving into the mix, and you’ve got an even more dangerous combination for everyone on the road.

It’s a problem Dr. Jamie Wood, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Pittsburg State University, would like to see addressed. Wood, along with his team of researchers, will travel to New Orleans next week to present the findings of their recent research on student drivers with ADHD. After reviewing prior research on the topic, the team sought out to learn if driver education instructors in high schools know what to do when one of their students has ADHD.

The answers surprised them. After surveying more than 300 driver education instructors, the team found that 85 percent had never received training on how to teach a student driver with ADHD, and that nearly 80 percent have never even been informed if one of their students has been diagnosed with ADHD.

“We discovered it is a very significant concern,” Wood said. “It’s extremely dangerous and the lack of awareness and lack of intervention quadruples the problem.”

Wood points to research that reveals that adolescents with ADHD are four times more likely to have traffic accidents than their peers, and are much more likely to be at fault in those accidents. Young drivers with ADHD receive more than twice the level of driving citations than their peers (primarily for speeding) and are more likely to illegally drive a vehicle prior to getting their license.

“ADHD features some degree of daredevil-like behavior,” he said. “There is a tendency to act without considering the ramifications.”

In their report, to be delivered at the National Association of School Psychologists next Friday, Wood’s team will present several recommendations for schools. These include school psychologists collaborating with driver education instructors on intervention techniques, and parents and those instructors attending Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings that are developed for students by school administrators. Their recommendations also include fairly simple solutions such as making sure the music in the car is turned off and that students with ADHD are trained without distractions (such as other students in the car).

“Parents need to be aware that ADHD is not just a disorder that is educational or one that ends when the kid leaves school,” Wood said. “It can be pervasive in numerous areas of life.”

For more information on the research project or the team’s findings, contact Dr. Wood at 620-235-4193 or at

---Pitt State---