Brief Report

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 9, pp 2211-2217

Brief Report: Examining Driving Behavior in Young Adults with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Pilot Study Using a Driving Simulation Paradigm

  • Bryan ReimerAffiliated withNew England University Transportation Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab Email author 
  • , Ronna FriedAffiliated withClinical and Research Programs in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD, Massachusetts General HospitalDepartment of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
  • , Bruce MehlerAffiliated withNew England University Transportation Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab
  • , Gagan JoshiAffiliated withClinical and Research Programs in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD, Massachusetts General HospitalDepartment of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
  • , Anela BolfekAffiliated withClinical and Research Programs in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD, Massachusetts General HospitalDepartment of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
  • , Kathryn M. GodfreyAffiliated withNew England University Transportation Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab
  • , Nan ZhaoAffiliated withNew England University Transportation Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab
  • , Rachel GoldinAffiliated withClinical and Research Programs in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD, Massachusetts General HospitalDepartment of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
  • , Joseph BiedermanAffiliated withClinical and Research Programs in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD, Massachusetts General HospitalDepartment of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

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Abstract

Although it is speculated that impairments associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will adversely affect driving performance, little is known about the actual extent and nature of the presumed deficits. Ten males (18–24 years of age) with a diagnosis of high functioning autism and 10 age matched community controls were recruited for a driving simulation experiment. Driving behavior, skin conductance, heart rate, and eye tracking measurements were collected. The high functioning ASD participants displayed a nominally higher and unvaried heart rate compared to controls. With added cognitive demand, they also showed a gaze pattern suggestive of a diversion of visual attention away from high stimulus areas of the roadway. This pattern deviates from what is presumed to be optimal safe driving behavior and appears worthy of further study.

Keywords

Driving behavior High functioning autism spectrum disorder Distraction Cognitive workload Driving simulation