All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Despina Stavrinos

Advisory Committee Members

Karlene K Ball

Sarah O'Kelley

Sarah Ryan

Scott Snyder

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences


People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are much less likely to obtain a driver’s license than their typically developing peers, which limits their social and economic opportunities. Existing research does not support the idea that licensed drivers with ASD are severely worse at driving, so the discrepancy in driving outcomes is likely related to the apprehensions held by people with ASD. In contrast, people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) engage in more risky driving behaviors than drivers without ADHD, and they often have inflated beliefs about their driving abilities. Thus, the way that individuals’ personal capabilities (e.g., speed of processing) impact their views about driving risks (e.g., eagerness, apprehensions, avoidance) is likely to differ based on a diagnosis of ASD or ADHD. Data were gathered from drivers with ASD (n = 30), drivers with ADHD (n = 36), and typically developing drivers (n = 35) to examine how each diagnosis interacts with speed of processing to influence positive driving attitudes, negative driving attitudes, and driving avoidance. Drivers with ASD were found to report more negative driving attitudes and more driving avoidance than the other groups. Additionally, slower speed of processing was associated with more driving avoidance among typically developing drivers, but that association was not significant among drivers with ASD or ADHD. Findings indicated that drivers with ADHD and relatively slow speed of processing may not avoid driving in hazardous conditions to the same extent as their typically developing iv peers. The present findings also demonstrated that people with ASD were generally more apprehensive about driving compared to their peers without ASD, even after licensure. Apprehension about driving likely affects driving competence, so interventions that aim to promote transportation independence among people with ASD should take into account those apprehensions. The ability to drive promotes independence and community involvement, and further research is needed to understand how to maximize safe, competent driving among people with ASD and ADHD.



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