The Visual Search Patterns of Drivers with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Complex Driving Scenarios

Driving is a highly demanding task which presents itself with various unpredictable and potentially hazardous situations. The failure to visually scan the driving environment and strategically search for potential road hazards, can be considered as unsafe driving practices. Little is known about how licensed drivers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) visually scan the roads while driving. The present study assessed the visual scanning and fixation patterns of drivers with and without ASD during a simulated drive. Twenty-eight licensed drivers between the age of 18–40 years old, including 14 drivers with ASD (male = 13) driving at least 2 h per week participated in a simulated drive with 14 matched controls. Psychometric profiles and visual scanning patterns on various objects of interest were analyzed between groups. Drivers with ASD were found to fixate and spend significantly more time focusing on the central visual field and less time scanning where hazards potentially emerge. They also tended to allocate less visual attention on social stimuli (i.e., involving a person), and failed to stop in time at the red lights. Psychometric profiles confirmed poorer visual scanning and motor processing speed but less risk-taking behavior in drivers with ASD. Licensed drivers with ASD were found to allocate visual attention differently compared to licensed drivers without ASD. Poor scanning patterns with an over-focus on the road ahead and less scanning of the road side and periphery may possibly result in unsafe driving. However, risk-taking behavior was not prevalent in these drivers. Effective visual scanning strategies could be incorporated in the driver training of individuals with ASD.


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  • Accession Number: 01714099
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 24 2019 3:06PM