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