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Factors Associated With Driving in Teens With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Huang, Patty MD*; Kao, Trudy BS, RN; Curry, Allison E. PhD, MPH*; Durbin, Dennis R. MD, MSCE*,‡

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: January 2012 - Volume 33 - Issue 1 - p 70–74
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31823a43b7
Brief Report

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.

From the *Division of Child Development and Metabolism, Center for Injury Research and Prevention, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA; †The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, PA; ‡Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA.

Received June 2011; accepted September 2011.

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and its Industrial Advisory Board.

This article represents the interpretation of the authors and does not necessarily represent views of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia or Industrial Advisory Board.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Address for reprints: Patty Huang, MD, Division of Child Development and Metabolism, Center for Injury Research and Prevention, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 3550 Market Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19104; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.