As a card carrying ADHD/ADD woman, who managed to medicate myself in both healthy (sports teams) and unhealthy ways (drinking too much freshman year), I have always been a fan of the stick shift car. I loved learning to drive -- rural driveways in Maine were my summer practice ground and shifting gears for my father on the streets of DC as he drove so I could hear when the shift needed to happen. (Let’s not talk about that parenting choice in this blog, but focus on the positive.) When I did my drivers education practice I did it in a manual car, because I was raised by manual driving parents and the idea being -- “in case of an emergency you need to be able to drive whatever is around.” Little did they or I know that this would become a lifestyle, a way to keep me actively engaged in driving not only as a teen, but as an adult.
Last week research came out that “Car Crash Rate Falls When People with ADHD Take Meds.” I know this is not earth shattering news, but imagine for just a minute if an ADHD kiddo took meds AND drove a manual car. As an adult, in my 30’s I put myself back into a stick car because the allure of satellite radio, sweet, sweet text messages and multitasking was too much. And remember, I was over 30, the front of my brain had developed, so I could make a wise decision (and I had to pay my own insurance). I still wanted to push all the buttons at the same time, while attempting to navigate through the streets of Washington, DC during rush hour. Not good!
This was my fourth manual, the immediate feedback of not paying attention and the car stalling did the trick. It was as if my 16 YO self was driving through DC again in my not powerful or amazing 1980 something Datsun Sentra, with the fin stolen off of it. But that amazing 4 speed (!!!) took the potholes in Washington, DC like a big wheel. Or like the car I got from my grandparents, sophomore year in college, the used Honda Accord that felt like a Ferrari after the Datsun, driving up and down I-95 and eventually migrated me across the country. It had over 170,000 miles on it when I finally got rid of it, for the very first car that I bought -- the convertible to get a tan in while I commuted up and down 280 and 101 to work in the Bay Area. Putting your teen in a manual car to drive will not prevent accidents, but does help - CHADD advises that ADHD prescriptions are “more like eyeglasses that help to improve vision."
With the wonderful rise of self driving cars, my hope is that our daughter, who has the ADHD in her, will never drive a car. In the meantime, if she ever is lucky enough to have a car that she gets to drive, it will be stick shift and she will have to be on meds. I want her to experience the road with instant, safe feedback - when you stop paying attention, your car stalls.