Newly licensed autistic drivers crash less than other young drivers

January 28, 2021

Philadelphia, January 28, 2021 - A collaborative study from the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) and the Center for Autism Research (CAR) at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found that compared with their non-autistic peers, young autistic drivers have lower rates of moving violations and license suspensions, as well as similar to lower crash rates.

The findings were recently published online by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Obtaining a driver's license is an important milestone for adolescents and young adults. One-third of autistic individuals without intellectual disability obtain their driver's license by the time they are 21 years old, increasing their mobility as they transition to adulthood.

Prior studies with driving simulators suggested that autistic drivers may be at higher risk for motor vehicle crashes, since autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can affect motor coordination and visual processing speed, both critical skills for safe driving. However, no previous research has objectively looked at the real-world risk of crashes and traffic violations among autistic adolescent and young adult drivers. This knowledge would help pinpoint specific skills instructors can build upon and inform tailored practice driving interventions and lessons to increase young autistic driver safety.

The researchers examined data from New Jersey residents born between 1987 and 2000 who were patients in the CHOP Care Network. Their electronic health records were linked with statewide driver licensing and crash databases. The data included 486 autistic and 70,990 non-autistic licensed drivers over their first four years of driving. The study team also examined the proportion of crashes that were attributed to specific driver actions and types of crashes.

"Our findings are noteworthy because they suggest newly-licensed autistic drivers may establish driving patterns that balance independent mobility and risk, bringing their crash risk in line with other young drivers," said Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH, senior author of the study and a senior scientist and director of epidemiology at CIRP and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "By learning more about their driving patterns and how their crashes differ from those of their peers, we can develop tailored training to help autistic adolescents and young adults develop the range of skills needed to become safe, independent drivers."

The study also found that young autistic drivers involved in crashes were substantially more likely to crash while making left- or U-turns and also more likely to crash due to not yielding for another vehicle or pedestrian.

The authors suggest that weaknesses in processing speed among young autistic drivers may make identifying, processing, or prioritizing potential hazards more difficult. Their motor speed and visual scanning skills may also be slower.

"Our study suggests that autistic adolescents and young adults may benefit from more on-road training than their non-autistic peers," said Benjamin E. Yerys, PhD, a co-author of the study, a psychologist in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Data and Statistical Core at CAR. "They may need more tailored training in navigating turns and interacting safely with pedestrians and other vehicles."
-end-
This work was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health Awards R01HD079398 and R01HD096221.

Curry et al, "Comparison of Motor Vehicle Crashes, Traffic Violations, and License Suspensions Between Autistic and Non-autistic Adolescent and Young Adult Drivers." J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry, online January 13, 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2021.01.001.

About Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals, and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 595-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Related Driving Articles from Brightsurf:

Driving behavior less 'robotic' thanks to new Delft model
Researchers from TU Delft have now developed a new model that describes driving behaviour on the basis of one underlying 'human' principle: managing the risk below a threshold level.

Warming temperatures are driving arctic greening
As Arctic summers warm, Earth's northern landscapes are changing. Using satellite images to track global tundra ecosystems over decades, a new study found the region has become greener, as warmer air and soil temperatures lead to increased plant growth.

Software of autonomous driving systems
Researchers at TU Graz and AVL focus on software systems of autonomous driving systems.

Driving immunometabolism to control lung infection
When drugs to kill microbes are ineffective, host-directed therapy uses the body's own immune system to deal with the infection.

Representation of driving behavior as a statistical model
A joint research team from Toyohashi University of Technology has established a method to represent driving behaviors and their changes that differ among drivers in a single statistical model, taking into account the effect of various external factors such as road structure.

Improving the vision of self-driving vehicles
There may be a better way for autonomous vehicles to learn how to drive themselves: by watching humans.

Impaired driving -- even once the high wears off
McLean researchers have discovered that recreational marijuana use affects driving ability even when users are not intoxicated.

Self-driving microrobots
Most synthetic materials, including those in battery electrodes, polymer membranes, and catalysts, degrade over time because they don't have internal repair mechanisms.

AI to determine when to intervene with your driving
Can your AI agent judge when to talk to you while you are driving?

Cooperating may result in better self-driving experience
To better understand and predict the outcomes of the steering wheel control dilemma, contrary to many previous studies, in a paper published in IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica, Dr.

Read More: Driving News and Driving Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.