Behind the Wheel on the Spectrum

I came across in my research on Autism that on average, adults with Autism earn their driver’s licenses at later ages, drive less frequently, and put on more restrictions on their driving such as not driving after the Sun goes down.  Perhaps this explains why my high school driver’s education teacher gave me a passing grade provided I vowed not to go for my driver’s license until I at least turn 18.  HA!

If I could get someone to chauffeur me around, the local hi-ways and bi-ways would be much safer.

When I’m going with my Mom somewhere, I prefer to sit on the passenger side.  My Mom, bless her heart, is 80 years old and still driving.  I’d rather be in the car with her behind the wheel than me.

I don’t think fast enough to make judgments on the spot.  That puts me at a disadvantage behind the wheel.  I don’t have the luxury of time to process whether I should slow it down, speed it up, or hit the brake.  I compensate by driving less.  That’s manageable since my job assignments as a substitute teacher’s aide are usually no more than five miles away.  As far as driving after dark, I will do so, but if beyond my immediate neighborhood, it better be a 9-11 type emergency.

I recall a Thanksgiving day five or so years ago that I had spent by myself.  It was near evening and I went out just to get out of the apartment.  One of the few stores opened was a drug store.  There was a road to turn into before reaching the parking lot.  When I left the store, I drove onto the road and stopped at the stop light at the interesection.  Across from me was a police car waiting and after a minute or so, the office turned on his lights and came across the intersection.  He stopped by ME!  I thought, “What in the world!  I’m just stopped waiting for the light to turn!”

The first thing he asked when he approached me was if I knew why he was there or what was wrong.  I told him I had no idea.  That’s when he did something to do this day I cannot forget:  he bent over laughing.  He may have been 20 years younger than me, but at that moment, I felt like 10.

Then he pointed out my mistake. I was not on a two-way road leading from the intersection to the drug store.  It was a one-way for those entering to go to the drug store.  The road across the median to my right was the road I should have been on to get back on the main highway.  I did have the excuse of it not being in my neighborhood and it being after dark.  He did not give me a ticket which I was grateful for.  He let me make a u-turn to make things right.  I went home to my Thanksgiving dinner and well, I’ll just say I didn’t eat enough to be stuffed afterwards.

I did have a good cry.  Not only over my mistake, but the laughing too.  The sight of him bending over in laughter is etched in my memory, perhaps forever.  I just wish he had politely explained what I did wrong and after I was out of sight, then laughed his head off.

Taxis are not a viable option.   For one thing, I couldn’t afford a taxi for every time I needed to go somewhere.  And another is the thought of riding around with a total stranger gives me some anxiety.  Lastly, I’ve had taxi rides with drivers who were worse behind the wheel than me.





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