All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Despina Stavrinos

Advisory Committee Members

Olivio Clay

Olivio Clay

Robin Ennis

Caroline Richter

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


A developmental milestone that both contributes to and facilitates a successful transition into adulthood is the ability to drive. Despite the importance of driving on independence, only one in three autistic adolescents successfully obtain a driver’s license by age 21 compared to over three-fourths of non-autistic adolescents obtaining their licensure by 21 (Curry et al., 2018; Federal Highway Administration [FHA], 2020). The current study identified published findings related to autistic drivers and quantified the statistical significance of the conditions and driving contexts in which autistic drivers show the greatest risk for negative driving outcomes. A systematic search yielded 37 articles that met inclusion criteria. Based on the differential results derived from the qualitative review, it appears that autistic drivers are not generally at greater risk of negative driving outcomes; instead, they face unique challenges based on the skills necessary to navigate specific driving contexts. To quantify these findings, data were extracted from 16 studies and a meta-analysis was conducted. An overall small, significant effect size was found (g = -0.34), suggesting that autistic drivers show a small, significant deficit in their overall driving performance compared to non-autistic drivers. Significant differences were found at the operational level of driving, (g= -0.57, SE=.17, 95% CI = [-0.91, -0.23]), which involves the direct maneuvering of a vehicle. No significant differences were found at the tactical level of driving, (g= -0.13, SE=0.15, 95% CI = [-0.43, -0.17]), which involves the safe interaction and response to the roadway iii environment and other road users. These findings show that despite their diagnosis, autistic drivers are able to safely drive a motor vehicle, only showing deficits in operational skills, particularly when they are novices, and these differences subside with driving experience, compared to non-autistic peers. Findings provide evidence for novice driver training for autistic individuals focusing on accelerating operational driving skill acquisition. Future research should continue to consider barriers to licensure for autistic individuals and address deficits faced when safely operating a motor vehicle.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.