Posts Tagged ‘learning to drive with Autism’

Can someone with Asperger’s be a good and safe driver?

I want to apologize for yesterdays entry as my life hasn’t been going too well and my driving problems and co-workers not liking me because I’m a bad driver has really upset me. Anyone wants to be a safe driver and it really upsets me that I cannot figure out what I’m doing wrong and was even told by a co-worker that if I have no idea what I’m doing wrong then I shouldn’t even be driving in the first place. If I knew what I was doing wrong does this co-worker think that I would continue to do this even though I’m pissing off other drivers? Most drivers want to not only avoid an accident but also avoid road rage. I have literally beat myself up over this and have struggled for a long time to figure what is wrong with me and my driving. I’ve been so self-conscious that I avoid driving when I can and get nervous when I am driving. I remember during college I even didn’t feel like driving on some days and avoided going to class.

Of course with me having Asperger’s I have been asking myself if it has anything to do with me having Aspergers and if it does can I (someone who has Asperger’s be a good and safe driver. I was searching on the internet and came upon a blog from the new york times titled Aspergers, Autism and Learning to Drive. In this article the concerns were with people having Asperger’s/Autism following rules by the book and not being able to read facial expressions. Of course I tend to lose interest in an article that includes Autism Speaks speaking for people with Autism/Asperger’s. It is a long story to explain why a lot of people on the spectrum dislike Autism Speaks and don’t want them speaking on their behalf. Long story short they really aren’t in tune with people on the spectrum. This article mentioned a study by the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation from Rutgers University saying that only 24% of their respondents with Autism were independent drivers. You have to figure in that in major cities, people don’t need a car since the local mass transit can get them anywhere they need to go. The sampling of patients most likely was in a major city with mass transit and if they were in another area the amount of independent drivers with Asperger’s would be higher. There are also people currently driving who may have Asperger’s or other spectrum disorder but haven’t been diagnosed. My personal opinion is that this article has been over-active. Asperger’s or other spectrum disorders may affect driving but not as much as this article claims. In my case I’m not so sure if Asperger’s is the cause of my driving problems. Of course I have no idea what I am doing wrong so I cannot make an accurate diagnosis on the cause of my bad driving.

Is it possible that I just learned bad habits and since I really don’t have a friend or relative with me, I don’t notice? For example, if I had a wife riding with me she would give me constructive feedback if she notices something I was doing that was unsafe. I have few friends so I wouldn’t get feedback from friends either. Without a wife or friends it would be hard for me to get the constant feedback that others get about their driving. My drivers ed days didn’t go too well and I was very nervous to drive with the instructor. My instructor tried to be patient with me but really couldn’t give me as much help as I may have needed. He did realize that I was nervous around classmates so he did one-on-one sessions with me but still I may not have learned too well. I remember that I dreaded driving with the instructor unlike other students who looked forward to driving with the instructor after school. I don’t know if my instructor knew that I was nervous to drive or understood me being nervous other than him realizing that I was extremely nervous when with other students. I also considered quitting the class. I was really bad in drivers ed and even had other drivers yelled at me while driving the drivers ed car (the car was marked with green and yellow stickers) and I became a legend because I was able to make my instructor really mad at me even though he is known for being patient with other students. Learning with my parents didn’t go too well either. They were expecting me to already know how to drive after I was given a learners permit. I remember I dreaded driving with my parents too and even was nervous after I got my license. It is very possible that I could have developed habits that made it past drivers education and even after I got my drivers license. If I remember correctly, my behind the wheel tester mentioned that I missed a red light and that I took a turn too fast but he still passed me. Since there was snow on the curbs he decided not to do the parallel parking test. I knew others who didn’t get tested on parallel parking even in the summer. Of course the testers may have figured that it isn’t as necessary as other skills. It is possible for someone who has no idea how to parallel park to drive. They just would have to look for parking lots since they couldn’t parallel park.

What is even more perplexing about my driving problems is that years ago I told a therapist about how I was self-conscious of my driving. She knew a friend from a local driving school who she had drive with me. He didn’t see anything wrong with my driving. It gave me a boost of self-esteem until I started having the same problems of drivers getting angry at me. I brought this up to another therapist I saw. This therapist decided to ride with me for a few minutes and in this few minutes did notice something I was doing wrong. I cannot remember what it was but I don’t think it was major but she did mention that this habit could cause some drivers to be upset. My biggest problem seems to be that I anger drivers behind me especially when I approach a car ahead or I’m driving behind a car. Especially a car in front of me going really slow. It upsets me that I am so clueless as to what I could be doing wrong and don’t seem to even have a clue. The only thing that I can think of is I am slowing down when they aren’t expecting me to. To the best of my knowledge the driver in front of me doesn’t get mad. At least I haven’t noticed any driver in front of me getting mad at me, it seems to just be the driver behind me. Perhaps I brake too early or keep too big of a following distance. I just cannot seem to figure it out and it is really hard to ask an angry motorist especially when many would say that if I have no idea what I’m doing wrong then I shouldn’t be driving at all. Others could get even more upset at me for asking them. I’m not too good at dealing with angry people.

I’m sorry this article has went into can I drive safely instead of can someone with Aspergers or other spectrum disorder drive safely. I would say that it is very possible that someone on the spectrum can drive safely. In my case I was learning to drive long before I was unofficially diagnosed with Aspergers. In fact, there probably weren’t very many people diagnosed with Asperger’s at this time and the ones who are on the spectrum most likely were diagnosed with something else such as generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety. There is a well written article on this topic at Behind the Wheel with Autism: A Personal Perspective. I think it would be beneficial for people on the spectrum and off the spectrum to practice driving a bicycle on the roads since you can learn some of the basics of reading people and situations. It is also a good idea to choose a driving school that has simulators and a practice driving course. In my case my high school didn’t have simulators or a driving course so my first time was driving on the streets and I not only had to handle the rules and logic of driving, I had to learn the basics of maneuvering a car. It is very important that parents of students on the spectrum be patient with their son or daughter. It is hopeful that the instructor understands and has dealt with people who are nervous driving. It would be helpful if they also understood teaching people on the spectrum how to drive.

With all the video games with realistic steering wheels and pedals that even provide feedback I wonder if there isn’t as many people who are driving on the road for the first time in drivers ed who don’t know some basics on maneuvering a car unlike my situation. Even though these video game cars are not the real thing, they are good at simulating some maneuvers. It could even be possible to create a driving simulator that plays on a PC or gaming console. I hope that driving simulators are more affordable than in the past for drivers education programs. They would be more helpful since students can master the basics of maneuvering and do so at their own pace. Driving on a range could be limiting since it has to be open and you may only be able to practice for a couple hours at the most.

Are you on the spectrum and drive a car? If so I would like to hear from your experiences. This driving problem of mine has been a major problem in my life and I’ve even avoiding driving when I can because I am so self-conscious. I have also literally beat myself up over this. It is so frustrating since I’m wondering if I can drive or not. If I were to get another instructor to look into my driving what are the chances that this instructor will not find anything like the other driving instructor? Is there any kind of listing of drivers education instructors who specialize in teaching people on the spectrum driving skills? How would I go about solving the biggest problem with drivers behind me getting mad? Should I have the instructor drive behind me in a car or could they figure out a possible cause by watching me from inside the car? Please comment on your advice to people on the spectrum who are learning to drive. I also would appreciate any feedback on how I can figure out what is wrong with my driving.