All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Despina Stavrinos

Advisory Committee Members

Edwin W Cook III

Rajesh Kana

Kristina M Visscher

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


Negotiating horizontal curves is one of the more high-risk tactical control maneuvers when operating a motor vehicle, as drivers must simultaneously and adeptly control their steering adjustment, speed, and lane positioning, as well as accurately perceive the curvature of the road segment and adjust to proprioceptive cues. Given known differences in upper body motor control, coordination, proprioception, and attention, this maneuver may be particularly difficult for drivers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The current study examined how drivers with ASD negotiated rural horizontal curves. Thirty-one participants ages 16-30 (13 ASD, 18 TD) drove through a simulated driving environment containing one right and one left horizontal curve, during which vehicle dynamic parameters (i.e., vehicle velocity and acceleration) and steering behaviors (e.g., steering angle, steering velocity, lane positioning, number of lane exceedances, steering reversal rate) were measured. Data were compared relative to whole-curve performance, as well as at different curve segments. Drivers with ASD drove comparably to their TD counterparts with respect to both vehicle dynamic control and steering behaviors when negotiating the first curve. However, when negotiating the second curve, the ASD group had a significantly higher rate of steering reversals and lane exceedances despite spending a similar percent of time out of the lane relative to the TD group. Findings indicate that drivers with ASD follow similar dynamic control profiles to those without ASD. Conversely, steering control profiles differ, especially in more iv complex scenarios or ones involving unexpected maneuvering. Specifically, drivers with ASD may be less adept at steering recovery, as indicated by a higher rate of steering reversals during curve negotiation. This study adds to the growing literature detailing how drivers with ASD operate motor vehicles. Results corroborate previous work indicating that drivers with ASD excel at following road rules but are more at-risk in complicated driving situations. Findings have the potential to inform targeted driver education protocols for this population, as these data suggest that steering control may be largely implicated in driving differences among those with ASD.



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