All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Despina Stavrinos

Advisory Committee Members

Fred J Biasini

Rajesh K Kana

Robin G Lanzi

Marsha Sturdevant

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2017

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

According to recent estimates, only 33% of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) successfully achieve licensure compared to nearly 84% of the general population. Despite this decreased number of individuals driving in the ASD population and the importance of driving in increasing independence and quality of life, research in transportation safety among drivers with ASD is limited. Many of the impairments associated with ASD such as anxiety, processing speed and executive function may negatively impact driving performance. This study is among the first to objectively assess possible demographic, cognitive and simulated driving performance differences in individuals with ASD who are still learning to drive and those with ASD who have successfully obtained a driver’s license. Participants included 9 individuals with a diagnosis of ASD still learning to drive (learner’s permit only). Pre-drivers were compared to 16 fully licensed drivers with ASD. Participants completed a simulated driving task, questionnaires, measures of driving anxiety and processing speed. Drivers with ASD had significantly more speed exceedances compared to pre-drivers. Age and experience emerged as a significant predictor of licensure status with greater age/experience predicting membership to the full license group. Driving anxiety and ASD symptom severity marginally predicted licensure status with greater levels of anxiety and higher ASD symptom severity associated with the fully licensed group. Mobility is a key component to independence and further research is needed to investigate the learning to drive process in individuals with ASD.

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