When a young adult has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or other challenges that might affect his or her ability to drive a vehicle safely, what should parents do to protect their child, other pedestrians and drivers?

Even a typical teen takes quite a while to develop the skills needed to be a safe driver. When the situation is complicated by the fact that the teen or young person has ADHD or FASD, driving becomes even more complicated. In my family, depending on our children’s different circumstances, we respond quite differently once the subject of driving comes up.

With one of our sons with FASD, his driving instructor was the one who stated that while he might pass the test, our son would not be a safe driver. Not surprisingly, my son was unhappy about this. When he was 20, he did get his driver’s license and since then, he has had more than one job which requires driving. He has since told us that he now knows he wasn’t ready to drive at 17.

We decided to not allow one of our sons, who is severely compromised by FASD, to drive. However, at 19, once he could legally sign for himself, he tried on more than one occasion to pass the test. So far, he has not passed.

Over the last two years, three of our children turned 16. The oldest has begun driving lessons. The second child has FASD, and a brain injury because of a motor vehicle accident, and certainly seems a poor candidate for driving. However, because our older son harboured so much hostility about our decision not to let him drive, we tried a different approach. When he turned 17, we gave him the “Road Sense for Drivers” book, which potential new drivers need to read to prepare for the learner’s knowledge test. After a cursory look at the book, he decided he wasn’t interested.

Our third child who turned 16 this year has ADHD, as well as some addiction challenges, so we will not give him permission to learn to drive until he has made some better decisions. He recognizes his own risk-taking behaviour so for now, is accepting the consequences.

Navigating the driving dilemma

  • Consider a formal Driver Education Course for your teen or young adult (a list of ICBC-approved driving schools is on the ICBC website).
  • Accompany your child when he or she goes to take the knowledge test at the driving centre. It is you and/or your child’s responsibility to report if they have a condition which might impair their fitness to drive.
  • If your child has a condition which is on the list of medical conditions which requires a medical exam, they will receive a “Drivers Medical Examination” form in the mail. The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles will review the completed form and let the individual know if more information or testing is required.
  • If your child does pass the driving test, consider buying a Teen Black Box, which gives warnings to the driver when he or she is speeding. It costs about $300.
  • Make a family driving contract in which you set boundaries and take an active role in your teenager’s driving education. If you do this, the chances of your teen being in a crash are reduced by a third.
  • If your child can’t obtain a license he or she can still get around with a bicycle, an electric bicycle, or maybe even a moped.

Find more information about driver safety and getting a driver’s licence at www.bcaa.com and www.icbc.com.