Am I the ONLY ONE who can't drive because of my ADHD??????? (warning: self-pity and frustration ahoy lol)

I’ve failed my driving test twice and I’ve got another one coming up at the end of the month. My first test I failed 9 years ago. My second test I failed last month. I’ve had 4 different instructors over the years, and cancelled multiple tests along the way.

It’s not nerves. It’s not that I can’t drive. It’s not mean examiners, or bad luck. I just CANNOT FOCUS enough for the 40 minute test. It makes me so upset, because my driving lessons now feel pointless, I’m not learning anything new. I’m wasting money just practising what I can already do, because I’ve been learning for 9 years. I just got back from a lesson where I practised all my manoeuvres, even surprised myself by remembering everything about how to do them and negotiating a busy saturday afternoon town centre.

But I pulled out onto a roundabout right into traffic and the instructor had to stop me.

These stupid mistakes happen SO OFTEN and it’s SO FRUSTRATING because I don’t know why I do them!! I thought the ADHD explained it, and yes being medicated/treated makes a HUGE difference to my driving. I practise a lot of mindfulness too.

My instructors without fail end up scratching their heads at how such a good confident driver can make such dangerous mistakes as if they’re on their first lesson.

I mean, I know it’s my ADHD really, because I know my brain and I KNOW the feeling of being momentarily distracted, of my brain transitioning too slowly from one task to another, of being bad at prioritising, and of missing details because I’ve got a song in my head and forget what’s going on around me.

Thing is, a politician recently wrote a letter to the minister for transport stressing that ADHD only affects driving in “a minority of severe cases”. I’ve met COUNTLESS people with ADHD who have passed their test first time, including my brother, or have passed later on and never had any issues since. Everyone keeps telling me “it’s okay, I passed third time! Just try again!” and “It just takes longer for some people and that’s okay!” but who is “some people”? Why am I “some people”? I’m a good driver! I’m not nervous but not over-confident! I know how to do everything!! Yet I slip up every time!

I’m not going to give up, and I don’t need to be told “some people fail 5 times before passing”. I know that. But I don’t know WHY. What scares me the most is that even if I pass my next test, I could have passed through sheer luck, and I’ll continue making stupid mistakes when I drive, only I won’t have an instructor next to me to help.

I guess what I’m asking here is if somebody can please relate to this. I feel like a fraud when I say my ADHD is what stops me driving because it seems that most people with ADHD have no problem driving. I do have inattentive-type ADHD and I normally attribute it to being that particular subset. But sometimes I worry that it’s not the ADHD, maybe it’s something else, maybe it’s “sluggish cognitive tempo” like Dr Russell Barkley says. I don’t feel like I fit the criteria for that, but I’m honestly at a loss.

Please don’t reply with “most people don’t pass first time, it’s okay” or “I passed first time but I’m sure you’ll pass eventually!” or “some people just take longer” or anything like that. Just… please let me know your experiences if you can relate to what I’m saying? I’ve spent so long in tears over this issue, I just don’t want to feel like it’s just me and there’s something wrong with me.

(In case you want to know why I failed, first time I got one serious fault - I didn’t stop to let someone pass and they had to reverse backwards down the road to let me through. The second time I got two serious faults - both were on the same road and to do with the bus lane. On one, I didn’t check my mirrors before moving into the bus lane because I was too distracted by the bus lane sign. On the other, I didn’t even use the bus lane when I should have because I missed a sign saying I was allowed to use it. Yes, I failed twice in the same test for both looking at the sign too much, and not looking at the sign enough. See what I mean?)

I haven’t been anywhere near as persistent as you in my efforts to learn to drive, but I absolutely relate to the issue you describe, i.e. that you know how to drive and are not nervous or over-confident, but make dangerous mistakes due to focus issues. I had exactly this problem when I (unsuccessfully) learned to drive: initially my instructor was full of praise for what a quick learner I was, but then he became extremely frustrated with me because I kept making dangerous mistakes “as if I was on my first lesson”, as you say.

In the end, after telling me I was ready to take my test, he made me cancel at the last minute because he feared for me exactly what you fear for yourself - i.e. that I might pass through sheer luck and continue making stupid mistakes without him to help.

He asked me if I was high (never have been), or dyspraxic (made me begin to wonder if I might be…) and eventually told me he felt bad taking my money because I’d had so many lessons and wasn’t getting any better. It really was frustrating because I knew I could do all the manoeuvres etc. perfectly, I just couldn’t do them consistently, and every lesson I would make different stupid mistakes. I could always immediately tell him exactly what I’d done wrong, so he was at a loss for how to help me.

As for whether it’s because of ADHD Inattentive or SCT or something else, I can’t really shed any light on that; I’m being treated for inattentive ADHD symptoms, but my psychiatrist is reluctant to give me a formal diagnosis, ironically one of the reasons he gave is because you have to declare it to the DVLA…

So I don’t know how helpful this is, but rest assured that there is at least one another person out here belongs to the exclusive club of “some people” who just take longer

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Thank you, that’s so helpful :heart:

It drives me and my instructor up the wall when I make a mistake and immediately say “why did I do that, that was stupid” and my instructor starts to explain but he knows I already know it… Like, I know not to drive directly into a stream of oncoming traffic going 40mph. Do I do it anyway? Yes!

Also, I think I saw my last instructor’s soul leave his body when I stopped at a green light. A week before my test (which I cancelled).

I can’t speak about it directly, since I’ve been dawdling (I’m 32), and still haven’t taken the test… No joke, I just keep forgetting to sign up for lessons and the test and actually DO it… Maybe not a good sign…?:sweat_smile: But I’ve read about a few people on the forum who are worried they DID pass by coincidence, and regularly feel like they’re dangerous in traffic because they lose focus for a bit, or they’re suddenly three intersections down, but don’t remember anything from driving through them. So sorry to say it, but ‘you’re not alone’ (I know you told us not to tell you that), from actual statements on the forum somewhere. Sorry I don’t remember what the thread was, but it got me worried about taking the classes and test, hehe…:sweat_smile::sweat_smile::sweat_smile::disappointed_relieved:

Disclaimer: i don’t have a diagnosis yet. I passed last year (age 35) on my 6th attempt, mostly due to performance anxiety i think but there are definitely times when my mind wanders which I find alarming. When you realise you’re thinking about what the examiner is writing and how many times he’s ticked a box and if his movements are ticks or crosses etc. and not notice you’re veering out of your lane. As a result Im not a confident driver and can’t have the radio on or people talking as i find it too distracting.

Sorry you’re frustrated. It does sound frustrating in fact! And it’s clearly ADHD-related. I don’t have any advice (my ADHD presents quite differently from yours, and anyway, I am a rank failure at many similar things so you probably shouldn’t take my advice in the first place!). But I do want to say, I’m sorry you’re having this experience. :frowning: Maybe you won’t ever beat the mean ol’ driving test; maybe you’ll figure out a great coping mechanism that works just for you and you’ll get it done next time 'round; or maybe you’ll work out such a wonderful solution that you can make a zillion dollars selling your solution to every ADHDer on this forum! But it’s not a reflection of your value as a person. Having a driver’s license is useful, but not valuable (if I may try to use those words oddly). You are not a better person for passing a driving test. You can get to the mall, yes; and you don’t have to ask anyone else for a ride, if you have your own driver’s license. But we still value you with or without the license.

Getting the mistake explained to you is, obviously, not helping. And yet your instructor has offered, consistently, only that one response to your mistake. Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result, is he? Heh … who’s the crazy one?

Maybe you need a different kind of instructor? Are there driving instructor type people who can accommodate ADHD-style learning? Who can offer less verbal these-are-the-rules type feedback, and more physical or neuro-transmitter oriented gaming practice? Can you play on a driving simulator, take extra stimulants before your test, etc. etc.? It’s an ADHD problem, so don’t look for neuro-typical driving instructor solutions. Rather, look for ADHD solutions!

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So I didn’t get my license till my 30’s. I was on my learner’s permit for 4 years. The first time I took the test I almost drove through a red light. A year later, managed to pass.

I too am a good driver. No accidents yet. But I’ve also made stupid mistakes, and don’t fully trust myself (or that if somebody else does something unexpected I’ll see it). In the end I get my wife to drive as much as possible, especially in new or busy places.

Quick background: I’m an American expat living in Africa. I do drive when I’m in the USA, but I don’t like it. It’s stressful trying to pay attention to everything.

But here in Africa, I have chosen not to drive. I have to have a driver anyway for security reasons, but besides that, you really can’t afford to have lapses of attention here, because there is so much chaos on the roads. I just never felt that it was safe for me to be driving here. But most other expats I know do drive themselves at least part of the time, so I felt bad for quite a while that I didn’t feel I could do it. But everyone is different, with different things they are good at or not good at, so it’s okay.

Incidentally, my brother and my dad, both ADHD, also both drive. My brother even drives a school bus. But as I said, everyone is different, and ADHD presents itself differently. Some ADHD people are able to focus on driving and do well, but others are not able to do that. Don’t feel bad!

I passed my test, ‘first time’ (although it was my third round of trying to learn, spread over six years and three instructors) to the astonishment of everyone including my driving instructor.

I was very aware that I was one of the worst drivers on the road, but took comfort in the fact that very slowly, I was improving ( after passing my test).

About 25 years later I got diagnosed with adhd. One of the medications I was prescribed was bupropion, which came with an enormous leaflet including the following advice on driving:

Not in the dark
Not in heavy rain
Not for more than one hour without a break.

It was like they had been watching me drive for 25 years and told me what I had always struggled with, but ignored because I didn’t want to be a wuss.

:flushed:

I can really relate to this tbh. When I was learning how to drive I seriously had a bad Wall of Awful surrounding it because I’d make such simple mistakes that I knew were wrong. I never wanted to practice driving because I was either: worried that I’d cause an accident, or I’d disappoint my mom. I still have super bad driving anxiety, especially when I’m on a new route or I’m off my meds.

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No no no. Thats not true. Maybe for some adhders. But not for a lot of us. Im sure. I will admit I passed my driving test and was actually considered a really good and safe driver bc I noticed and stopped for a guy on a bike on a walking trail.
BUUUTTTTTTT i am still making mistakes all the time. I am very worried that there is going to be a day that i slip up and don’t catch my mistakes. I have been fortunate enough that my mom has been in the car to catch me before i ram into soemthing or miss the red light. And the days I’ve been alone I’ve been fortunate enough to have been attentive enough to make it through. But. There have been. Many. Many. Many close calls. And its been really worrying me lately. And i still don’t know what to do about it. I’m worried about whay will
Happen the moment I start to get too comfortable in my car and my guard isn’t up enough. So you’re not alone. And I’m really sorry but I don’t have a good answer to this problem either :’( but at least you’re not alone and we are all in this together. :fist:

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I’m like @Marodir and @Tiddlypops. I haven’t even gotten to the road test stage and I’m in my 30s. I now wish I had learned in my teens when I still thought I was invincible. I still intend to learn, but I’m really nervous about being able to do a good enough job so I keep putting it off.

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I have a driving license for car for a long time and added also unlimited motorcycle license two years back
But I drive no good, I tend to joy sightseeing and dont take care of traffic
Or ride like an a****le to feel thrill and loads of adrenaline

I am on bupropion too and I guess they forgot that stuff in my leaflet or I couldn’t focus long enough to read the whole thing. Yea that would be some really helpful advice that I never got.

The irony is that the advice is slightly less relevant now that I have the meds :roll_eyes::sweat_smile:

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I’m dangerous on a bike alone: drive into trafficated roads or into people just because my mind is elsewhere. I have friends who wont ever let me cycle behind them again. xD

I want people to accept ADHD as a reasonable reason for choosing not to take a drivers license. It’s doesn’t have to be insecurity/fear of failure, or an inability to learn.

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I didn’t learn to drive as a teen because of (unrelated to ADHD) medical problems.
As an adult I just don’t think I can do it. My husband keeps telling me stuff like ‘just think you could do all this fun stuff if you learned to drive’, but I am also thinking 'okay so I can either zone out and not pay attention to the traffic signs and hit someone or be so anxious that I’m going to do that that I am a bundle of nerves the whole way there as I drive at 20 miles an hour because I’m so paranoid I will space out and cause an accident ’ none of that sounds fun!
This morning I put cheerios in my tea, do you seriously want me behind the wheel of a two ton piece of metal moving at 60 or 70 miles an hour?
It would be nice if the USA had better public transportation for people that can’t or don’t want to drive for all sorts of reasons, getting around to certain places can be tricky sometimes.

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I regularly miss doorways when trying to walk through them, so let me tell you how much I relate to this whole Nah I’m Good Being a Perpetual Passenger thing.

I never learned to drive because I never believed the advantages outweighed the cons, and now that I’m older and diagnosed and have medication and people that think maybe I could do it now… I still think it’s a can of worms better left alone

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I run into doorways all the time too! Also tables, any sort of furniture really I’m super clumsy.

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Thanks everyone for relating to me, it’s really made me feel better.

Thought I’d come back here today because I JUST PASSED MY DRIVING TEST!! FINALLY!!!

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