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Children With ADHD At Higher Risk of Automobile-Related Injuries

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Previous studies have found that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are at a higher than average risk of being hit by a car than their peers. Before, researchers weren’t quite certain why these children were in so much more danger, but a recent study may have the answer.

Despina Stavrinos of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, lead author of the study, says that she first believed that since children with ADHD have trouble staying focused and controlling their behavior, they may fail to do basic safety checks before crossing roadways, including looking both ways. However, after testing for this possibility using a simulated roadway, Stavrinos found that this wasn’t the case–children with ADHD followed the same basic safety rules as other children prior to crossing roadways. Nevertheless, interestingly, even after performing the basic safety tasks, children with ADHD chose to cross the street even when it wasn’t safe to do so. Stavrinos believes that children with ADHD may have difficulties with their "executive functioning”, or the control center of the brain that has critical functions such as making judgments and plans.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, are based on 78 children ages 7 to 10. Half of the children had been diagnosed with ADHD, while the other half had no known developmental disorders. Each of the children made 15 simulated street-crossings in a virtual reality setting. Overall, the children with ADHD picked less-safe times to cross the street than their non-ADHD peers. For example, the children with ADHD chose to cross the street when there were smaller gaps between cars and less time to spare between reaching the next crosswalk and missing the next oncoming vehicle. Overall, the researchers advocate for environmental and vehicle technology modifications, but also urge doctors to screen for ADHD in children and plan for appropriate behavioral interventions to teach these children to cross the street at safe times and prevent injuries.