Simulated Driving Performance of Adults With ADHD: Comparisons With Alcohol Intoxication

Jessica Weafer, Daniel Camarillo, Mark T. Fillmore, Richard Milich, Cecile A. Marczinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Previous research has demonstrated that adults with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to experience driving-related problems, which suggests that they may exhibit poorer driving performance. However, direct experimental evidence of this hypothesis is limited. The current study involved 2 experiments that evaluated driving performance in adults with ADHD in terms of the types of driving decrements typically associated with alcohol intoxication. Experiment 1 compared the simulated driving performance of 15 adults with ADHD to 23 adult control participants, who performed the task both while sober and intoxicated. Results showed that sober adults with ADHD exhibited decrements in driving performance compared to sober controls, and that the profile of impairment for the sober ADHD group did in fact resemble that of intoxicated drivers at the blood alcohol concentration level for legally impaired driving in the United States. Driving impairment of the intoxicated individuals was characterized by greater deviation of lane position, faster and more abrupt steering maneuvers, and increased speed variability. Experiment 2 was a dose-challenge study in which 8 adults with ADHD and 8 controls performed the driving simulation task under 3 doses of alcohol: 0.65g/kg, 0.45g/kg, and 0.0g/kg (placebo). Results showed that driving performance in both groups was impaired in response to alcohol, and that individuals with ADHD exhibited generally poorer driving performance than did controls across all dose conditions. Together the findings provide compelling evidence to suggest that the cognitive and behavioral deficits associated with ADHD might impair driving performance in such a manner as to resemble that of an alcohol intoxicated driver. Moreover, alcohol might impair the performance of drivers with ADHD in an additive fashion that could considerably compromise their driving skill even at blood alcohol concentrations below the legal limit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-263
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • ADHD
  • adults
  • alcohol
  • driving simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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