ADHD and relative risk of accidents in road traffic: A meta-analysis
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionAccident Analysis and Prevention. 2014, 62 (January), 415-425. 10.1016/j.aap.2013.10.003
The present meta-analysis is based on 16 studies comprising 32 results. These studies provide sufficient data to estimate relative accident risks of drivers with ADHD. The overall estimate of relative risk for drivers with ADHD is 1.36 (95% CI: 1.18; 1.57) without control for exposure, 1.29 (1.12; 1.49) when correcting for publication bias, and 1.23 (1.04; 1.46) when controlling for exposure. A relative risk (RR) of 1.23 is exactly the same as found for drivers with cardiovascular diseases. The long-lasting assertion that “ADHD-drivers have an almost fourfold risk of accident compared to non-ADHD-drivers”, which originated from Barkley et al.’s study of 1993, is rebutted. That estimate was associated with comorbid Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and/or Conduct Disorder (CD), not with ADHD, but the assertion has incorrectly been maintained for two decades. The present study provides some support for the hypothesis that the relative accident risk of ADHD-drivers with comorbid ODD, CD and/or other conduct problems, is higher than that of ADHD-drivers without these comorbidities. The estimated RRs were 1.86 (1.27; 2.75) in a sample of ADHD-drivers in which a majority had comorbid ODD and/or CD compared to 1.31 (0.96; 1.81) in a sample of ADHD-drivers with no comorbidity. Given that ADHD-drivers most often seem to drive more than controls, and the fact that a majority of the present studies lack information about exposure, it seems more probable that the true RR is lower rather than higher than 1.23. Also the assertion that ADHD-drivers violate traffic laws more often than other drivers should be modified: ADHD-drivers do have more speeding violations, but no more drunk or reckless driving citations than drivers without ADHD. All accident studies included in the meta-analysis fail to acknowledge the distinction between deliberate violations and driving errors. The former are known to be associated with accidents, the latter are not. A hypothesis that ADHD-drivers speed more frequently than controls because it stimulates attention and reaction time is suggested.