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ADHD kids face greater pedestrian risks
July 25th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

ADHD kids face greater pedestrian risks

Teaching your child to safely cross the street is hard enough, but when your child has ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, you may need to worry more about his or her safety. A new study finds children with ADHD are at greater risk when crossing the street. Experts suggest these children have more problems remembering visual tasks and managing their time as they do them.

Accidents are the leading cause of death in children and those with ADHD are much more likely than their peers to be involved. Crossing the street is no exception so researchers decided to create a virtual reality simulation of an intersection and asked children ages 7 – 10 to cross the street.

Before the testing began, researchers at the Injury Control Research Center at the University of Alabama measured the walking speed of 78 children; half had both the inattentive and hyperactive symptoms of ADHD and were not taking medication. The other 39 children had no developmental issues. The children stood on a platform that represented a curb in front of three large screens that took up much of their field of vision, on which a busy street scene was projected. The child's challenge was to decide when it was safe to cross. When  the child stepped off the "curb," a very lifelike avatar appeared on the screen and crossed at that child's pre-recorded speed.

The experts wanted to know if the children with ADHD were at increased risk of injury, whether they failed to look left to right before crossing, darted out into the street, or had more close calls than their peers. What they found surprised them. The children with ADHD did look both ways before stepping off the curb, but left significantly less time to make a safe crossing. They had far more close calls than their typically developing peers. But they weren't necessarily just taking more risks. Researchers thought there might be more to the issue.

"We think that perhaps there is a problem with their timing ability," explains Despina Stavrinos, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Transportation Center. "Lots goes on when crossing the street. You have to be able to time the cars coming through the crosswalk, time your own ability to cross the street. We believe that kids with ADHD have real trouble with estimating or making those appropriate judgments when deciding to cross."

They seem to see what's going on, but they don't appear to process it like other children. Leading ADHD expert and author Dr. Russell Barkley speculates it has to do with working memory, the part of the thinking process that helps a child remember what he's doing, especially something that's visual, a known problem area for those with the disability. He says a child with ADHD can accurately tell you how long something takes, for example if he sees you do a task that takes 5 seconds and another that takes 10, the child can distinguish between the two. But when asked to duplicate the task in that same amount of time something goes awry and he often can't do it.

"A child can perceive a time interval correctly, but as he tries to use that interval to get things done in time, he feels he has more time than he does," explains Barkley. "He winds up taking more time than he should. There is a breakdown in knowing and doing, in perceiving and using."

These new findings are particularly timely as families get ready for the start of a new school year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children are usually ready to safely cross the street on their own by age 10. But as the study suggests children with ADHD may need more of our attention.

Stavrinos suggests more safety training and says parents can practice with their child. Stand in a parking lot or sidewalk near a busy intersection and have your child tell you when he thinks it's safe to cross. You and he can then go over his choices and offer guidance when the decisions are too risky.

But even this may not be enough according to Barkley because the underlying issue of timing may be due to a disconnect in the child's brain when it comes to actually doing a task.

"You need closer accountability, closer supervision of the children and maybe reducing their ADHD symptoms through medication," says Barkley.

He suggests that parents or other adults walk with their children as they go to and return home from school.

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soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Christopher

    Not too sure that this is true. I was diagnosed with ADHD (and re-diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at 21) as a child, and I was not more 'prone to pedestrian hazards than other children. I did get hit by a car once, but the fact is that my cousin who doesn't have ADHD or anything like it also got pasted by a car as a child.

    This sounds more like they are advocating medicating NORMAL CHILDREN for being NORMAL FLIGHTY CHILDREN!.... which I have a huge problem with.

    July 25, 2011 at 05:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Starr, W

      Could not agree more, Christopher...and for the exact same reason. Seems the media, even after 30 years at least of study, still paint ADHD as an evil boogeyman to me medicated away.

      July 25, 2011 at 06:13 | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      You're using your one personal experience to refute a study based on a statistical sample size. I'm not saying the study's conclusion is correct, but it's like saying global warming is a non-issue because the weather in your hometown is just fine.

      July 25, 2011 at 07:10 | Report abuse |
    • Mom to 3

      I can assure you that others are at risk. I have a 7 year old with ADHD and he has already had such an accident. It was not his fault in any way, the other guy was driving illegally, and had no license, but he was the only kid in the group of kids to get hit.

      July 25, 2011 at 08:11 | Report abuse |
    • Jean

      I didn't see anything in the article that recommended medicating ADHD kids in order to help them cross the street. Understanding the mental mechanics behind ADHD behavior and responses can only lead to better NON-medical strategies of dealing with those behaviors and responses.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:24 | Report abuse |
    • Chr

      How is it automatically the other guys fault? I mean just because someone doesn't have a license or has a suspended one doesn't mean their a bad driver.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:36 | Report abuse |
    • DB

      "I don't have any problems as a pedestrian...I did get hit by a car once" Something wrong with that statement.

      July 25, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
    • JenniferCA

      Ed and DB nailed it. I think people are pretty sensitive to being labeled with ADHD and try to act like the disorder doesn't affect them as much as it does... just like some diabetics who continue to eat things they shouldn't. I suggest that we try harder to take the stigma off of these mental illnesses so people can get the help they need. And no I'm not advocating over-medicating all hyperactive children. Studies like these help researchers find alternatives to medicine. So why don't you stop criticizing it before you understand it.

      July 25, 2011 at 19:39 | Report abuse |
    • Jame

      This article is relevant: http://mrtrpt.com/vh. Adults with ADHD are also four times more likely to get into traffic accidents that have nothing to do with ADHD kids;

      July 26, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
    • Jame

      According to Jeffrey Freed, an educational therapist and consultant who works exclusively with ADD and gifted children, ADD and ADHD are often over-diagnosed and “virtually all children who are labeled ADD are right-brained, visual learners.” http://www.themortonreport.com/home-away/health/kids-with-adhd-more-likely-to-be-hit-by-a-car/

      July 26, 2011 at 12:12 | Report abuse |
  2. katie

    Another crud article based on a crud study..

    July 25, 2011 at 05:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Random

      What does it matter? We don't let them go to school with the normal kids anyway. We will just have the teacher’s assistant isolate them more. This is ok because we just need to up their dose of drugs.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:06 | Report abuse |
    • jj

      @Random, I was diagnosed with ADHD but I was never put on medication, my mom didn't want me on drugs the rest of my life. I went to a normal school, had normal classes, I even took some advanced classes, and was on the honor roll. It was hard, I had to work harder then ever one else and stuff took longer, but I still did it.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
  3. marcus1371

    Voo-Doo Science without a doubt. The worst part of it is that we accept it. So between medicating your kids, and medicating yourself [with antidepressants] we all become the same thing. A no-personality, apathetic, bunch of slobs.

    July 25, 2011 at 06:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Chris

    A kid that is a spaz is at risk of being a brat when walking around? Whoa, shocking.

    ADD, ADHD, Aspergers are simply a way for parents to force their poor parenting and snotnosed kids errible behavior on the rest of us.

    How about you stop giving the kid a can of coke for breakfast, take away the PS3, smack the kid when needed and little junior will fall into live/

    Unacceptable behavior is simply unacceptable.

    July 25, 2011 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mom to 3

      That is just mean and ridiculous. Coke doesn't help, it makes them worse, and my child has been disciplined 10X more than the other kids. When I finally put him on meds, one of the main reasons was because I was afraid some adult was going to hurt him or he would hurt himself. He as so hyper he drove everyone else insane. This is not about being spoiled. My other two kids are model children, ask their teachers.

      July 25, 2011 at 08:14 | Report abuse |
    • Merightyouwrong.

      Are you insane? You think the root of all of my problems as a teen with ADHD is due to drinking coke in the morning and playing video games? Who drinks coke in the morning anyway?

      You are also assoaciting a learning disability and Autism together as if they are some what similar and I take offense to that.

      My last problem with your uneducated comment is that you encourage parents to hit their children. No one does that anymore and no one should. You are a bad parent if you inflict pain on your children. They will slowly grow to hate and resent you for beating them instead of guiding them down the right path.

      July 25, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse |
    • Merightyouwrong.

      Are you insane? You think the root of all of my problems as a teen with ADHD is due to drinking coke in the morning and playing video games? Who drinks coke in the morning anyway?

      You are also associating a learning disability and Autism together as if they are some what similar and I take offense to that.

      My last problem with your uneducated comment is that you encourage parents to hit their children. No one does that anymore and no one should. You are a bad parent if you inflict pain on your children. They will slowly grow to hate and resent you for beating them instead of guiding them down the right path.

      July 25, 2011 at 09:22 | Report abuse |
    • linda

      You are obviously very uneducated. My brother was diagnosed with ADHD in the early 1970s when it was completely unheard of. He fits the mold completely. I have an ADHD daughter and I'm sorry, it had nothing to do with my parenting skills – especially when you have more than one kid and the other had no problems.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse |
    • Tired of being blamed

      I am a mother of one son with ADHD and a second with Autism. I can assure you, BOTH conditions are real. I do NOT feed either one of them soda for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I am assuming you meant soda. My sons are a little older, but I worry about both of them in many situations, not just crossing the street. I see many of the descriptions of behavior in the article everyday, especially during homework time. My son with ADHD constantly underestimates the amount of time he has to get something done. My other son with Autism, who is now 11, I hope for the first time he will be able to walk himself to school, even though we can see it from our front door.

      I am tired of being blamed, shunned and downright shouted at for my childrens' conditions. You need to learn compassion. That is what everyone in my family, including extended family members have gained from knowing my sons. I would not trade that for anything.

      July 25, 2011 at 12:05 | Report abuse |
    • Shannon

      Wow. Please take the time to educate yourself about this disorder or shut up. You remind me of people who deny that depression is real.

      July 25, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
  5. Kana

    I sure hope this BS study wasn't paid for with tax payer funds.

    July 25, 2011 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mari

    I can believe the ignorance of the people who write in here, but one thing is for sure I didn't need this study to know that my ADHD kid did not have the ability to time events properly.

    July 25, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • linda

      I agree with yuo 100%. My first thought was this study is a waste of money. I raised an ADHD daughter and as you said, I didn't need a study to show this. Part of being ADHD means being compulsive and can't pay attention – what did they think the outcome would be!

      July 25, 2011 at 10:48 | Report abuse |
    • Random

      ADHD kids area a different bread of human. If you study ADHD for a while and avoid the numerous misdiagnosis numbers, you will notice a pattern. These children are primarily redheads and blonds. It is kind of like a Labrador living with a Great Dane. They area both big dogs, but one will be bouncing off the walls if you don't run it all day. ADHD is caused by low dopamine. The body reacts by over producing adrenalin and even more dopamine to compensate. I am ADHD. The only solution other than drugs that destroy your balance or liver is to run no less then 10 miles a day. With this said we seem to be bad a natural organization. ADD is not anything but a poorly disciplined child. (Pleas excuse my poor spelling and grammar. California had mandatory segregated schooling during my childhood years and I am basically self-educated)

      July 25, 2011 at 11:42 | Report abuse |
    • Tired of being blamed

      I agree we did not need a study. The study was for everyone else. How many times have we tried to describe our kids, only to be told it is our fault? The more studies that show their brains are different, the more likely help for them can be fine tuned and more effective.

      July 25, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
  7. Common Sense

    It's called Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest

    July 25, 2011 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • phil

      Many people with ADD/ADHD are among the most brilliant people alive. I fail to see how your crude "natural selection" comment has anything to do with....well, anything.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:44 | Report abuse |
    • linda

      Obviously "nature" made a mistake by skipping you.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:51 | Report abuse |
    • Shannon

      ADHD is not a fatal disorder, so no, natural selection does not apply. And for the record, I've had ADHD all my life and graduated from a 4 year university with honors, two bachelor's degrees, and I'm heading off to grad school. Something tells me that you have not accomplished all of this, and you don't even have to struggle with ADHD.

      July 25, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
  8. Sandy

    This is one reason why I am less than thrilled that my sixth grader with ADHD has to walk to school this fall. We live 1.4 miles away and she will have to cross several artery streets during the 8 am rush hour. Granted, the streets are only two lanes wide, as we live in a college town, not a major city, but they are busy streets.. (The school's policy is that everyone is a walker who lives within 1.5 miles of school. I'd like to see them walk this far!)

    July 25, 2011 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jeanie

    It really took a "study" to determine this? The Government paid for this study?
    And we wonder why the gov't is going broke.....

    July 25, 2011 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Steven Bulcroft

    It's too bad they don't offer other treatments besides "medication". There is some proof that teaching ADHD kids meditation skills and/or yoga changes their brain in ways that working memory is improved as is focusing abilities. However, the big drug companies make billions of dollars with their meds so they have millions to advertise and do "studies". Simple, techniques that have been proven helpful that don't make money for big pharm gets ignored. Ah well, it's the same for most ailments, if there is a natural treatment that corporations can't make money on the MD's don't hear about it as no one can fund the studies to prove it's effectiveness because there is no money to be made on "natural" treatments that anyone can do.

    July 25, 2011 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • linda

      I agree. I raised an ADHD daughter and didn't put her on medication. What I found was teachers are already so overwhelmed they can't handle these kids and basically label them as bad. These kids need smaller classrooms with fun positive teachers. I could see a huge difference in my daughter in the learning environment based on the personality of the teacher.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:53 | Report abuse |
  11. Nomer

    Well, I for one am pretty interested in this article because my six year old is very active to the point that I do not know what he will do at times. I don't let him cross the street himself anyway, because he is just too young to do it safely. It is nice to know that I am not "crazy" for not letting him cross. Other adults in our lives tell me he is "fine.". I disagree. Now I have some evidence to support my beliefs. Bottom line, though...use caution and don't let your little person cross until he or she is old enough! It is just common sense sometimes.

    July 25, 2011 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. STOP THE INSANITY OF SEDATING BOYS WHO ACT LIKE BOYS

    Nearly every family in America seems to have children 'identified' as having some behavioral 'disorder' - meaning they show spirit, independence and restlessness - and drug them into submission. How long until public schools force the medication of kids who don't behave like automatons? I frequently speak with these parents and ask them what is wrong with their kids. The answers I receive most are "his/her grades are slipping" and "he/she is misbehaving". And don't get me started on the upper income brats who are 'identified' as being 'academically gifted'.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • A Mother

      Our son has ADHD and takes medication. He does not act sedated, does not become a zombie, and does have a great personality! The meds help him control the symptoms of ADHD – the need to constantly move (literally fidget constantly), to focus on schoolwork for more than 2-3 minutes in a row, to feel that he is in control of himself and not face the anxiety of worrying he will do something impulsive and 'wrong'. He is still "a boy acting like a boy" – he loves to run, play, horse around with his two other brothers (both "normal", whatever normal is.)

      If someone becomes a "zombie" from their meds, they need to go back to the doctor – something is wrong! They need to adjust the meds or perhaps they are someone for whom they don't work.

      Fon't color everyone with the same paintbrush. And, don't accuse parents of not trying when everything has been tried.

      July 25, 2011 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
    • Shannon

      I'm a 23 year old woman who excels in academia. Medication was part of my overall plan to manage my disorder, which I was diagnosed with as a young child. I didn't grow out of it, it's still here and I've been re-diagnosed several times. You don't know what you're talking about. The medications used for ADHD are stimulants, so they don't make anyone act like a zombie. They allow our brains to function normally, to be able to concentrate on what someone is saying without tuning in and out. This doesn't just happen at school – if I'm not on my meds, I get distracted when driving(!!) and when talking to friends and family. It is DANGEROUS for me to not be on my medication. I'm a normal adult in every other way, I'm highly educated and ambitious, and I happen to need medicine to make my brain work right. This is not just a disorder for little boys, but even when discussing them, please don't deny their experiences.

      July 25, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse |
  13. Josie

    First of all, I have a coke in the morning, I like it better then coffee. Second of all, I was diagnosed as being ADHD and have never been on meds and am still alive. My parents didn't allow us to be on video games all the time, I prefered being outdoors rather then indoors, and they were not lacking on the dislipline either! My son is ADHD and so is his father, his father ended serving and still is serving in our military and doing rather well on it. My son is being raised the same way his dad was (though the meds he is on is not the same as his fathers). My daughter is considered normal, but get this they are 7 and soon to be 9...they both have issues of darting out into street without looking (it could be they are normally in the country and don't worry so much about cars).

    I just love those that use being ADHD or ADD as an excuse to not be like everyone else or have others do things for them...it's a challange but can be done and the person can be just fine in the end.

    July 25, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. WellnessDrive

    ADHD can be a trying issue depending on the severity of it with the child. Most children especially boys, need their hand held when walking towards a road. I know my 2 boys do (only 3 & 7yrs old).

    What can help? In many cases, Natural Supplements such as Multi-Vitamins and Fish Oil can help along with Healthy eating. I've seen it work and there are studies that show proven results.

    Go on a WellnessDrive. Spectrum Isotonix Multivitamins are the best – they drink them providing faster & more absorption.

    July 25, 2011 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. mommagrizz

    " KIDS " are goats–

    human family - "CHILDREN " - , we call our young, children

    July 25, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Ridiculous

    I am sorry, but this is a fake disease. You can not be accurately diagnosed for this disorder, you present the symptoms and the doc makes a judgement call. Look at the symptoms; inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness, that describes everyone especially kids. Why don't you parents try exercising 30 to 40 minutes a day with your kids? Real exercise, not the wii. I can assure you, that most of the problems will go away. Is it really a surprise that the rise of ADHD cases coincide with the rise of obesity in kids? I don't mean to sound harsh to the parents, but stop medicating them please.

    July 25, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shannon

      What qualifies you to deem this a "fake disease" (it's not a disease, it's a disorder btw)? Are you a doctor? A scientist? A parent of a child with this disorder? I'm 23 now and it hasn't gone away. And no, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness are not normally used to describe college graduates. The rise in ADHD cases is due to better screening and awareness of the disorder, instead of, as you want to insist on doing, claiming that some kids are just rambunctious. And I take issue with your claim that people cannot be "accurately diagnosed." You obviously are not familiar with the current diagnosis procedure which involves computer testing, personal interviews, family interviews, teacher questionnaires and extensive examination of a patient's medical and psychological history. I have been through this procedure four times since I was 8, and every time they could very conclusively confirm my diagnosis. You have no right to tell anyone not to medicate their kids, because you clearly do not understand anything about this disorder. You're an anti-intellectual and your opinion is based on zero evidence. My opinion is based on personal experience with the disorder, research into medical studies, and discussion with experts. Exercise does help to an extent, but this is an issue of brain functions and usually requires medication to get the brain to operate normally. This is not just a disorder that children have. Plenty of adults have it. And unlike children, we can speak out against this stupid misinformation that is touted about by armchair "experts".

      July 25, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
    • Whatever

      Until you walk a day in the shoes of a parent of a child with ADHD, then don't claim to know how to "fix" them.

      July 25, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse |
    • Random

      That is a good point. Thank you for making it. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has a poor definition of ADHD. I feel this leads to the constant over diagnosis of ADHD. There area objective tests that can be given, but then pharmaceutical companies won't get as much money. For example, you give a hyperactive person coffee it sedates them. Also Methamphetamines seem to lower there impulsivity. In contrast to this sedation, an average person taking espresso or methamphetamines learns what it is like to be overly impulsive and full of energy. I’m not sure, but I thin I remember of universities using A single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) to determine the numbers of dopamine recepters in diagnosing this condition as well.

      July 26, 2011 at 08:05 | Report abuse |
  17. Jennifer State

    So much research is pointing now to brain-sync and rhythm and timing problems in brain communication being a factor in ADHD and other neuro-behavioral disorders. Here is an article that explains the research behind that link and what can be done to improve it:
    http://www.brainbalancecenters.com/2011/06/study-shows-poor-brain-sync-related-to-autism/

    July 25, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kay

      Thank you for posting that link. My son has ADD. He does not show any of the hyperactive symptoms, but is VERY easily distracted no matter what he is doing. This includes crossing the street. He at times has to be reminded and prodded to keep going and his reaction time to cars is different than other kids. Most kids see the car and immediately move out of the way. INo matter how many times I have told him and warned him about cars, it takes him longer to even acknowledge a car coming and then when he does, he seems to space out and freeze like a deer in headlights instead of moving. He has an average IQ and no other problems just the ADD and I am not medicating him at this time, so I have always wondered if his brain was just processing the information slower than others.

      July 25, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Thank you for posting that link. My son has ADD. He does not show any of the hyperactive symptoms, but is VERY easily distracted no matter what he is doing. This includes crossing the street. He at times has to be reminded and prodded to keep going and his reaction time to cars is different than other kids. Most kids see the car and immediately move out of the way. No matter how many times I have told him and warned him about cars, it takes him longer to even acknowledge a car coming and then when he does, he seems to space out and freeze like a deer in headlights instead of moving. He has an average IQ and no other problems just the ADD and I am not medicating him at this time, so I have always wondered if his brain was just processing the information slower than others.

      July 25, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
    • Kit

      I bet he is not "slow"–just in his own world. When you are distracted by your own thoughts, you may not have a great reaction time. In my opinion, the best thing to do is to meet with a psychiatrist, and if necessary, accept that he may have ADD, allow him to accept it as well, and work with someone who can lovingly help him recognize and deal with things he does that can put him in harm.

      July 25, 2011 at 20:55 | Report abuse |
  18. Kit

    I am 34 and never knew I had ADD until about 5 years ago. I have had more stupid car accidents and have almost gotten hit by a car–but also achieved an ivy league degree. I admit that I have attention issues, and I am happy to say that medications have helped me to thrive in a way that I never thought possible. I no longer see myself as being "stupid, absent-minded, or careless"–rather, I just learned to deal with my ADD.

    July 25, 2011 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kit

      to clarify–since starting medication and meeting with a therapist who specializes in ADD, I have not had any car accidents or anything even close.

      July 25, 2011 at 20:48 | Report abuse |
  19. Jennifer State

    So much research is pointing now to brain-sync and rhythm and timing problems in brain communication being a factor in ADHD and other neuro-behavioral disorders, including this article which mentions processing deficits. Here is an article that explains the research behind that link and what can be done to improve brain sync in children:
    http://www.brainbalancecenters.com/2011/06/study-shows-poor-brain-sync-related-to-autism/

    July 28, 2011 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply

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