Autism: 4 driving safety tips for first time drivers
At 28, I finally did it. I got behind the wheel for the first time after years of being almost deathly scared of driving. How did I do it? What tips do I have for people on the spectrum driving the first time?
Don't rush to the road.
Instead of going straight to the road where there are tons of experienced drivers that you might get in an accident with, start with an empty parking lot or a parking lot that is close to empty. I did my first run at me and my dad's workplace parking lot last weekend when barely anybody was there. Considering the time of day and week could also be important factors for you so you won't struggle to find an empty parking lot.
If you try an empty parking lot, there will be little disruptions for you to worry about on your first try. You can back up, turn, go forward, slow down, or speed up at almost any point you want. It's good practice without any distractions. Focusing with distractions can be difficult, especially for me and others who have autism.
The brakes can solve all problems.
In general life situations, sometimes it can be hard to run from or instantly have solutions to problems, but if there are driving obstacles, the brakes can prevent a crash in no time.
If there is a car too close to you, press the brakes. If you went over the speed limit, press the brakes. As long as you react quickly to potential danger, you should be okay.
Don't worry about pressing too hard on the gas.
My biggest fear when getting behind the wheel the first time was that I would press on the gas too hard, and the vehicle would lose control and crash into a curb or a building. As soon as I actually tried the gas pedal, though, trying not to press the pedal too hard was like making sure I didn't touch the inside of a stove with no gloves on. It's easy to do if you care about safety enough to act quickly.
Practice steering the wheel when you change gears.
The hardest part of driving the first time was steering the wheel and changing the gears at the same time. I had a hard time getting the timing correct. If I switched from reverse to drive, I couldn't get the wheel fully straight because of the poor timing. Because of poor motor planning with autism, sometimes timing can be tricky for me.
When you change gears, press the brake while you steer the wheel to ensure that the vehicle doesn't move lopsidedly when you eventually move.
Turning the car on while sitting in the driver's seat may be slightly scary at first, but with good practice and a patient instructor, everything should work in the end.
Purple Ella, a Youtuber with autism, also touches on the topic of autism and learning to drive.
You may also like: Driving Obstacles For People With Autism