The National Academies

BTSCRP BTS-28 [Active]

Teen Driving Performance Associated with Distraction, ADHD, and Other Risk Factors

  Project Data
Funds: $200,000
Staff Responsibility: Richard Retting
Research Agency: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Principal Investigator: Charlie Klauer
Effective Date: 6/9/2023
Completion Date: 6/9/2025
Comments: Research underway


In recent years, distracted driving has become a growing traffic safety concern, particularly with young drivers due to limited driving experience and other factors. Young drivers with neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be at more risk for motor vehicle crashes due to behavior characteristics commonly associated with these conditions. In recent years, a growing body of research has examined driving risks for teens with autism and those with ADHD. Research has identified concerns about the driving skills of teenagers with ADHD, as well as an increased tendencies to become distracted while driving and drive at higher speeds. 

Determining the role of distracted driving in crashes is difficult and inexact for many reasons, including a general lack of evidence. Researchers have turned to observational methods to examine the prevalence and increased risk posed by non-driving-related tasks. Naturalistic studies, most notably the SHRP2 Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS), can objectively identify driver distraction behavior immediately before a crash or other event. SHRP2 NDS data provide an opportunity to address a number of questions related to teenagers and distracted driving:

  • Which potentially distracting driver behaviors are most common among teenage drivers?
  • Under what conditions do distracted driving behaviors most commonly occur?
  • Which distracted driver behaviors are most likely to contribute to crashes and near-crashes?
  • How does driver behavior change in presence of (teenage) passengers?

Naturalistic data also support analyses of how distracting behaviors by teen drivers─and their role in crash causation─change as these novices gain experience behind the wheel.


The objectives of this project are to: (1) gauge the association between confirmed incidences of distracting behaviors and inattention to the driving task by teen drivers with crash and near crash involvement, in relation to their incidence during baseline events; (2) determine whether these incidences contribute to crashes and near crashes, and if and how these relationships change with increasing driving experience; and (3) compare exposure-based crash and near crash involvement rates, and self-reported risky driving behaviors, for teen drivers with different levels of ADHD screen scores, taking into account the potential influence of other behavioral and demographic factors captured in NDS data.

STATUS: Research underway.

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