Tel Aviv University researchers have come up with a new driver's training program that can help decrease road accidents and fatalities on account of ADHD, an attention deficit disorder common in teens which is considered to be a serious driver's disability.
The researchers say that they have merged their findings of their own clinical research with occupational therapy to develop the new approach, which can prove fundamental in treating old as well as young drivers with ADHD.
"There is no doubt in my mind that ADHD interferes with one's ability to drive safely," says Dr. Navah Ratzon from TAU's Department of Occupational Therapy, who is leading the new initiative.
"The youth who fail their drivers' tests over and over may be suffering from ADHD. Even if they eventually pass these tests, they're still more likely than others to become involved in car accidents," she adds.
Dr. Ratzon, a mother of five, herself has a challenged ADHD driver at home.
"One of my children suffers from ADHD. She's a good driver technically but has done the most damage to my car," she says.
She says that she devised a straightforward therapist-supervised approach to re-training ADHD teen drivers as a response to the need for such a programme in her own family. She insists that her approach can save lives.
Dr. Ratzon and her colleagues at the Tel Aviv University-affiliated Rabin Medical Center have developed therapeutic guidelines for occupational therapists to follow.
One of their suggestions is to create "a systematic screening of the visual field." Part of this screening includes a checklist of things every ADHD driver must do when driving.
Though such activities come naturally to most people, ADHD drivers need to remind themselves when to look at their mirrors or check for hazards on the road.
Dr. Ratzon says that her team's checklist helps keep the driver's mind on the road.
She says that though most people outgrow ADHD by their early twenties, the disorder can persist into old age.
"While there are very few articles on ADHD and driving, new research indicates that ADHD doesn't really go away. People continue to suffer from its symptoms. Even those old enough to be grandparents can benefit from our new driver's training program," says Dr. Ratzon.
She suggests that people diagnosed with ADHD take the medication prescribed to them before drivers' therapy because some American studies have shown that teens with the condition, who take Ritalin or similar prescribed medications, drive much more safely than those who don't.
She further recommends that an ADHD teen learn which hours and circumstances are better for driving, for studies have suggested that such drivers function better during long drives on country roads, where there are fewer distractions, rather than on short drives through the city.
Dr. Ratzon says that some may drive better at night than during the day, and such preferences can be determined with the help of a driving rehabilitation centre.