Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms, Sleepiness and Accidental Risk in 36140 Regularly Registered Highway Drivers

PLoS One. 2015 Sep 16;10(9):e0138004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138004. eCollection 2015.


Background: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a frequent neurodevelopmental disorder that increases accidental risk. Recent studies show that some patients with ADHD can also suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness but there are no data assessing the role of sleepiness in road safety in patients with ADHD. We conducted an epidemiological study to explore sleep complaints, inattention and driving risks among automobile drivers.

Methods and findings: From August to September 2014, 491186 regular highway users were invited to participate in an Internet survey on driving habits. 36140 drivers answered a questionnaire exploring driving risks, sleep complaints, sleepiness at the wheel, ADHD symptoms (Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale) and distraction at the wheel. 1.7% of all drivers reported inattention-related driving accidents and 0.3% sleep-related driving accidents in the previous year. 1543 drivers (4.3%) reported ADHD symptoms and were more likely to report accidents than drivers without ADHD symptoms (adjusted OR = 1.24, [1.03-1.51], p < .021). 14.2% of drivers with ADHD symptoms reported severe excessive daytime sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale >15) versus 3.2% of drivers without ADHD symptoms and 20.5% reported severe sleepiness at the wheel versus 7.3%. Drivers with ADHD symptoms reported significantly more sleep-related (adjusted OR = 1.4, [1.21-1.60], p < .0001) and inattention-related (adjusted OR = 1.9, [1.71-2.14], p<0001) near misses than drivers without ADHD symptoms. The fraction of near-misses attributable to severe sleepiness at the wheel was 4.24% for drivers without ADHD symptoms versus 10,35% for drivers with ADHD symptoms.

Conclusion: Our study shows that drivers with ADHD symptoms have more accidents and a higher level of sleepiness at the wheel than drivers without ADHD symptoms. Drivers with ADHD symptoms report more sleep-related and inattention-related near misses, thus confirming the clinical importance of exploring both attentional deficits and sleepiness at the wheel in these drivers. Road safety campaigns should be improved to better inform drivers of these accidental risks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Accidents, Traffic / trends
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

This work was supported by "ASFA" Association des Sociétés Françaises d'Autoroutes, Paris, France.