Because of their impulsiveness, daring, and difficulty anticipating the consequences of their actions, children with ADD my attempt to drive a car long before they are old enough, sometimes as early as age two or three. Never leave a child with ADD alone in a car with the motor running, even if you are going into a store for only a few minutes. Keep car keys away from them.
When teenagers with ADD are old enough to drive legally, they may also more likely to get speeding tickets or have car accidents. In survey of 16- to 22-year-olds, Dr. Barkley found that teen-agers with ADHD had almost four times as many traffic citations as non-ADHD teenagers. Speeding was the most frequented traffic citation. Some of the more daring teenagers may also sneak the car out for a drive before they get their driver’s license.
Because teenager with ADD have more difficulty concentrating and paying attention, they may be more likely to have car accidents than those teenagers who don’t have the disorder. According to Dr. Barkley’s survey, teenagers with ADHD had almost four times as many car wrecks and were more than seven times as likely to have had a second accident. They were more than four times as likely to be at fault in the accident. Inattention was the most common reason given for the accident. Their impulsiveness and attraction to exciting, daring things also play a role. Unfortunately, risk-taking behavior in an automobile can be fatal.
Again, I emphasize, not all teenagers with ADD are alike. Some teenagers with this disorder are very cautions drivers and do not speed. However, they still may have problems paying attention to stop lights and concentrating on their driving unless they are on their medication.
Sent to Driver Training. Some states require that teenagers take driver education training or a defensive driving course before they can be licensed. If this is not required in your state, consider sending your child for training anyway. Specialized training should be very informative and help improve your teen’s driving skills. Some insurance companies discount their premiums for teenagers who have completed such training. Develop a contract for driving. You may want to develop a contract clearly stating rules for driving. Include statements about your teenager’s responsibilities: seat belt use, maintenance, who will pay for gas and insurance, few or no friends riding with them, who else may drive your car, and when to call for help. Getting your child to fulfill the contract can be difficult; frequent reminders may be needed. For example, although wearing a seatbelt is critical, only about a third of all high school drivers wear them. Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD) has developed a “Contract for Life” that both the parents and teenager sign. These paragraphs are included in the model contract:
“Teenager: I agree to call you for advice and/or transportation at any hour, from any place, if I am ever in a situation where I have been drinking or a friend or date who is driving me has been drinking.”
“Parent: I agree to come and get you at any hour, any place, no questions asked and no arguments at that time, or I will pay for a taxi it bring you home safely. I expect we would discuss this issue at a later time.”
If your teen is responsible and you don’t think he will use too much gas when driving, you may not need to set limits on miles driven. However, if gas use is excessive or you anticipate that it could be, you might give a monthly gal allowance. If he exceeds the allowance, he or his friends must pay for gas themselves.
Gradually Increase Driving Privileges. After Several teenage car-related deaths, a Gwinnett County (Georgia) task force published an excellent handbook for teenage drivers. Ari Russel, a task force member, suggests the following procedure for gradually increasing driving privileges: As the teen moves from a learner’s permit to a drivers license and drives responsibly, gradually increase his driving privileges. You might allow him to drive only during the day during good weather for a couple of months. If there are no problems, he graduates to driving some at night, in good weather. Next he moves to driving during the day in bad weather, first with a parent and then on his own. He can then drive at night in bad weather. This provides more practice time to gain experience driving in increasingly difficult situation.
Purchase a Slow Tank. If you buy a car for your teenager, consider a larger, heavier car that offers more protection in the event of and accident. For some teenagers, a pickup may be the perfect choice. Instead of having six or eight people crammed into a car for the teenaged driver to impress, only one or two passengers can ride in the cab. Purchasing a car with four-or six-cylinder engine may also decrease the risk of speeding. Some cars with smaller engines, however, can achieve a high rate of speed very quickly.
Dealing with Speeding Tickets
If speeding tickets become a problem, here are several strategies to try:
Identify the High Risk Time of Day. Determine whether your teenager receives speeding tickets during the same time period. Then develop a plan to deal with the problem. For example, consider letting his girlfriend drive during this time or have him take medication when driving.
Take Medication When Driving. If you anticipate a problem with accidents or speeding tickets, or if your teenager has already received several tickets, ask your physician about having him take medication (Ritalin or Dexedrine) at 6:00 or 7:00 in the evening when he drives on the weekend. Ritalin taken at 7:00 should wear off by 11:00 or so. This runs counter to the general medicine advice not to take medication too late in the day to avoid sleep problems. However, most teenagers stay up late on weekends anyway so sleep difficulties caused by taking Ritalin may not be a major problem. Medication should help improve your child’s concentration and reduce his impulsiveness. Having a driver who is more alert and aware of his speed may be worth the risk of a mild sleep problem.
Use Logical Consequences. Tell your teenager in advice what the consequences for speeding tickets will be and stick to it. If you get a speeding ticket, you will have to pay for it. Or, you may elect to take driving privileges away for a week or two, or a month.
If your child accumulates many tickets, you should reassess the consequences you are using, Logical consequences that sound good but aren’t necessarily effective include: (1) You will have to pay for any increases in our insurance premiums. Sometimes insurance companies check drivers’ records only once a year. Up to a year could pass before your teenager experiences any consequences. Consequences are more effective if they occur soon after an offense. (2) The State will take away your license if you accumulate a certain number of points for speeding tickets. Again, two years may pass before your child’s driver’s license is suspended. By that time, he may have measured significantly, outgrown some of his impulsive behavior, and become a fairly responsible driver. These real-life consequences certainly are acceptable, but others may need to be used earlier before your child’s driving record searches a crisis level.
Ride with a Police Officer. One set of parents elected to use a somewhat unusual approach. They allowed their teenager to ride on duty with a police officer so he could see the dangers of speeding from another perspective. Although this arrangement can be a good learning experience, it is also potentially dangerous for the teenager. Liability issues may also make most police departments reluctant to allow teenagers to ride on duty with them.
Have Your Teenager Pay for His Own Insurance. If your teenager has to pay for a part or all of his own insurance, he will definitely experience the natural consequences of getting speeding tickets or having accidents. If he gets several tickets, he may not be able to afford the insurance. If you pay for his insurance, consider having him pay for any rate increases. Also, remind him that once he is out of school he will have to pay for his own insurance.
Insurance May Be Canceled or Be Cost Prohibitive. If your teenager has a major accident, plus has received several speeding tickets, insurance costs may be prohibitive. Insurance companies may cancel the family’s insurance or continue the policy for the parents while refusing to reinsure the teenager. If this happens, insurance coverage may be purchased from a high-risk pool, but will be more expensive. Quotes from a high risk pool for adequate insurance coverage to protect the parents’ assets in the event of a lawsuit may range from $1500 to $15,000 a year. Discussing the potential consequences of a poor driving record for you and your teenager in advance may be of some help.
Check Tire Size and Speedometer. If your teenager doesn’t think he was speeding when he was given a ticket, he may be right. Have the speedometer checked: it may not be accurate. Some teenagers with ADD love to customize their cars and trucks. Sometimes they buy oversized tires. Larger tires will cause the speedometer to read incorrectly, so the teenager will actually be driving faster than the speedometer shows. An authorized speedometer repair service can fix any problems with the speedometer and issue a statement about any speedometer error.
Appeal the Speeding Ticket. If you and your child obtains a certified statement from a repair service, you can usually appeal a speeding ticket in traffic court. The judge’s response will vary. He may dismiss the ticket or allow the teenager to plead guilty to a lower rate of speed may eliminate the addition of any points to his driving record. But he will still probably have to pay a fine.
Plead Nolo Contendere. Sometimes a teenager cited for a traffic violation may plead nolo contendere in court, which means, I agree to pay the fine but I am not pleading guilty. In some states, if a nolo is entered, no points are added to the driving record. If you believe your teenager’s driving skills are improving and he should be allowed to drive, you may want to consider this option.
Take a Defensive Driving Course. In some states, a teenager may take a defensive driving course and have the number of points on his driving record reduced.
Link Responsible Behavior to Privileges For many teenagers, driving a car is one of the most important privileges in their lives. This privilege gives the parent tremendous leverage. Parents frequently link being responsible with having the privilege of driving in discussions with their teenager. Students who are responsible complete their homework, help around the house, don’t get speeding tickets, and drive responsibly. Consequently, if your teenager brings home failing grades (because he isn’t trying), doesn’t do his chores, gets speeding tickets, or doesn’t come home on time, he may no be allowed to drive for awhile. For example, he can drive when his chores are completed of he brings home a weekly report that indicates that all work was turned in to his teachers.
If your teenager is really trying but not earning passing grades, you should have him evaluated for learning problems and request appropriate classroom adaptations. If a student is doing his best on his schoolwork, punishment is not appropriate.
Continue Some Consequences without Increasing Harshness. For some offenses, you may want to repeat the same consequences over and over, even though they don’t seem to stop the problem behavior. For example, you may want to continue having your teenager pay for his speeding ticket and taking away driving privileges for a week or more, even though he may receive additional tickets. Remember, even when consequences are imposed, teenagers with ADD sometimes repeat the same behavior. Switching to a harsher punishment may not solve the problem either. The consequences will sink in eventually, but it may take three years or loss of your teenager’s driver license.
You should use your own judgment based upon the severity of the problem and risk of danger. For instance, if he gets speeding tickets for going 45 mph in a 30 zone or 65 mph in a 55 zone, you might continue the same punishment. (Speeding tickets are discussed in more detail in Chapter 7). Sometimes harsher punishments are unavoidable.
Expect Impulsive Behavior
Impulsivity is one of the major characteristics of teenagers with ADD. If a thought crosses their mind, they may act on it. If they think it, the’ll probably say it. Or stated another way, in one ear and out the mouth. According to psychologist Dr. Robert Brooks of Harvard Medical School, a teenager with ADD is more likely to say Ready. Fire! Aim, rather than the traditional sequence. You can also add an Oops!! To the end of this sequence, since they often say or do things they wish they could take back. They have a terrible time keeping secrets. They live for the moment, and delaying gratification is very difficult for them. They want to open their Christmas or birthday presents early. If they earn money they want to spend it. Being untruthful may also be a manifestation of their impulsivity.
Anticipate When Impulsiveness May Cause Problems. Often you can anticipate when difficulties will arise because of your teenager’s impulsiveness and plan appropriate intervention. If he is so excited he can’t wait, buy a small gift for him to open the night before Christmas or his birthday. If he is working and earning money, talk with him in advance about putting the money in a savings account. Don’t tell him secrets you don’t want known.
Avoid Tempting Your Teenager to Act Impulsively. If possible, provide supervision after school or keep your teenager busy with constructive extracurricular activities such as sports. If you suspect that he may be driving the car without permission, simply put the car keys away so he can’t find them. Or note the mileage on the odometer to see if it is driven while you are gone. If he drives it, you have several options. Don’t say anything, but put the car keys away so he is not tempted to take the family car out for a drive. Or say, I know you drove the car without permission. Don’t do it again. You can’t drive the car by yourself until you are 16. Or make the preceding comment, plus put the teenager on restrictions for a day or weekend.
Difficulty Paying Attention
Teenagers with ADD dont seem to pay attention when parents talk to them. As noted earlier, problems with listening comprehension contribute to their difficulty paying attention. Dr. Brooks describes children with ADD as viewing the world through a wide- angle lens. They seem to pay attention to everything at once and have trouble selecting what is most important and should receive their attention. For example, they enjoy the thrill of driving and handling the car while being oblivious to their speed. Because they may be speeding, playing with the car radio, or aren’t paying attention to an approaching car or a road hazard, they are more likely to have accidents.
Although they have trouble paying attention in many situations, teenagers with ADD can sometimes over focus concentrate on a single activity for hours. Activities such as Nintendo or computer games that are high interest or have a more intense one0on0one interaction can often hold their attention for hours. Their ability to over focus may be misleading to adults. Parents/teachers may believe the teenager is deliberately not paying attention in other situations.
For more information on listening problems, see the section below and Chapter 10. Chapter 7 covers more serious problems related to inattention such as car wrecks.
Absolutely No Drinking and Driving. Approximately 60 percent of all teenager drivers (not just those with ADD) die in car accidents have been drinking. The youngest drivers, age 16, are responsible for 40% of all teenage car accidents involving alcohol.
Make it clear that drinking and driving will not be tolerated. Driving privileges will be taken away for two to four weeks or more. Typically, two weeks is an eternity for a teenager, especially one with ADD. Include a statement about the consequences of drinking and driving if you draw up a contract regarding rules for driving. Contracts are discussed in Chapter 5, plus the next section on driving. A model contract is provided in Appendix A.
Should He/She Drive a Car to School?
As Chapter 7 discusses, driving can land many teenagers with ADD in difficulties ranging from minor parking violations to serious accidents. In deciding whether your teenager should have access to a car at college, think carefully about his ability to handle this responsibility. In particular, ask yourself how likely he is to drive when his medication has worn off, and how likely he is to have an accident.
Allow Limited Driving. If you have serious reservations about your teenager driving a car to school, you might let him take a car his second quarter at school and see how well he handles it. After the quarter is over, does he have passing grades? Did he get any tickets for DUI? A logical consequence for any problems in these areas may reduce driving privileges.
Establish a Gas Allowance. Some students get jobs so that they can earn money to help pay for their gas. Other parents prefer to have their children focus all their energies on schoolwork and give them a gas allowance each month. Any charges over that amount must be paid for by the student. If you want to encourage your child to come home more often, you could offer to pay for the gas required for the trip home.
Encourage Him to Ride with Others. If he has received an occasional ticket or had an accident, encourage him to ride with others at night (if these problems occur at night). He may be willing to ride with his girlfriend or roommate. Or encourage him to take his medication at 5:00 p.m. or so when he is driving after dark.
Talk About Drinking & Driving. As discussed in Chapter 7, tell him drinking and driving is a non-negotiable area. Explain that you love him too much to allow him to risk his life while drinking & driving. If he is with someone who is drinking, get out of the car. Call a taxi or friend to come and get him.