Objective: To compare the characteristics of driving and nondriving teens and explore the driving outcomes for teens with higher functioning autism spectrum disorders.
Methods: Parents of teens aged 15 to 18 years with a parent-reported diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder enrolled in Interactive Autism Network, an online research registry, were eligible for this cross-sectional study. An online survey was used for data collection.
Results: A total of 297 parents completed the survey. Sixty-three percent of teens currently drive or plan to drive. Twenty-nine percent of the teens who are age-eligible to drive currently drive. Compared with age-eligible but nondriving teens, a greater proportion of driving teens were in full-time regular education (p < .005), planned to attend college (p < .001), and held a paid job (p = .008). A greater proportion of parents of driving teens had taught ≥1 teen to drive previously (p < .001). There were no differences in gender, autism subtype, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnosis, parental age or education, or access to public transportation. Driving predictors included individualized education plans with driving goals, indicators of functional status (classroom placement, college aspiration, and job experience), and parent experience with teaching teens to drive. Twelve percent of teens received driving citations, and 12% of teens had been involved in a motor vehicle crash.
Conclusions: Although a significant proportion of teens with higher functioning autism spectrum disorders were driving or learning to drive, the fact that most driving teens' individualized education plans did not include driving goals suggests an area of opportunity for improvement in transition planning. Driving teens were more frequently in regular education settings with college aspirations, which could help schools identify potential drivers.