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Are Children with ADHD at Greater Risk for a Pedestrian Injury?

Children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are at greater risk of injury when crossing the street independently, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. In light of these new findings, parents of children with ADHD may want to take extra precautions before allowing their children to cross streets by themselves.

As detailed by Consumer Reports, the study examined 78 children, aged 7 to 10 years old. Of these, 39 were diagnosed with ADHD. The children stopped taking their ADHD medication 24 hours before participating in the study. They completed 10 simulated street crossings in a virtual environment lab, with an avatar that appeared on the screen as soon as the child stepped off the fake wooden “curb” in the lab. Although the children with ADHD stopped at the simulated intersection and looked both ways to gage passing traffic, they chose to cross when there were smaller breaks between cars and had a shorter timeframe to reach the other end of the crosswalk.

“The important message for parents is that just because your child displays correct curb-side behaviors doesn’t mean that he’ll be able to cross a street by himself,” said Despina Stavrinos, Ph.D, lead author of the study, and assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Injury Control Research Center. “Executive function– timing ability, managing impulsivity, planning—is a key player.”

As demonstrated by the study, children with ADHD have difficulty processing information, which may lead them to make poor decisions about when it’s actually safe to cross a street. Thus, San Diego parents should recognize that even if their child with ADHD looks left and right when crossing, they may still not be able to safely cross the street on their own.

To help gauge their child’s readiness, parents can mimic the study procedure by standing on a curb with their child and asking him or her to watch the oncoming traffic and say (not actually cross) when they would cross the street safely.