Tips for driving while autistic
I feel like a lot of autistic people have a lot of trouble driving and getting their license. For many people that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that, y'all are valid in every possible way. Unfortunately, many of us live in cities where public transportation might as well not exist, in food deserts, in situations where we do not have people who can drive us places, in cities which make bike riding life-threatening and sometimes illegal. I would like to reiterate: there is absolutely nothing wrong with not being able to drive. The fucked up thing is a system which forces people to drive. This is intended to be suggestions for autistic people in similar situations to mine: in a food desert, no public transit, not enough money to pay for uber, etc.
Tips for driving while autistic and things to be prepared for:
-if you start dissociating and don’t feel that you can drive safely, pull over if you can. If there’s no clear place to pull over, get as far to the side as possible and turn your hazards on (this is the button with two red triangles, one inside of the other)
-keep plenty of water in the car. Keep food in the car too, but to prevent mice and rats from being tempted to investigate, keep the food in tightly sealed containers.
-if you miss the turn, it’s ok. I promise, it’s ok. Just take the next turn. Usually you’ll still be able to get to your destination by taking the next turn, and if not, it’ll give you a chance to pull over and re-evaluate or turn around.
-people will use some body language to indicate what they are intending to do. A waving hand means, “you go ahead of me.” A still hand, palm out means, “I’ll go first/thank you.”
-if you’re driving down a street too narrow for two cars, and you meet a car going in the opposite direction, just pull over for a second. Or if it’s super narrow, someone may have to back out of the street. It’s not a big deal. Try to be nice in those situations and they usually will be too. For that matter, sometimes I have to swerve slightly into the lane of incoming traffic because of bicycles and that happens too. People around you will do their best to compensate, but try to make sure you’re giving them enough time and warning for them to compensate (use your turn signal or hazards and spend as little time in the wrong lane as possible).
-no one wants to crash. Usually if you do something stupid the people around you will compensate and avoid you, although you might get some honks and middle fingers (yeah, mentally prepare for that)
-in terms of speed limit, it’s usually better to match the cars around you. The actual speed on a road is usually about 5mph over the posted speed limit.
-it doesn’t matter if you are going 15mph over the speed limit. There are still assholes who will tailgate you. (Meaning they will drive really close behind your car attempting to intimidate you into driving faster) The key thing to remember is that they also don’t want to crash, which means all they will do is intimidate. Because I’m an asshole and I hate tailgaters, I usually slow down when someone starts tailgating me. Remember: do not start driving faster. Police will ticket the person in front (aka you) because that person is “setting the speed” and they will not ticket the tailgater.
-parking is stressful, especially in downtown areas. Be prepared to wander for a while looking for parking and factor that into your drive time.
-some places no longer require you to learn to parallel park. Please learn anyway if you feel able. It will make finding parking a lot easier later on.
-bicycles will always be where you least expect them. Always. Especially if it’s illegal for them to be there. Just be prepared for them being anywhere and everywhere and not following the laws of traffic at all.
-the first time it rains or snows in the fall/winter, literally everyone will have forgotten how to drive. It’s a thing. Be prepared for the roads to be chaotic
-the most difficult part is the test itself. That’s the part where you disregard everything I’ve said about how driving actually works and just obey the letter of the law the best you can. Don’t forget you can retake the test if need be. Also, there will often be reviews online talking about which DMV in your area has the easiest test route.
-I try to do meditation breathing a lot while I’m driving under stressful circumstances. It’s very helpful for me
I hope this is helpful. If anyone else has any other tips for driving while autistic, I would be glad to hear them.
Edit: I can’t believe I forgot this! I’ve found that certain types of stimming can be somewhat dangerous while driving. I’d say chewing stims are fine, vocal stims are cool, but I would hold off on the visual and physical motion stims until you’ve had quite a bit of driving practice. Auditory stims are somewhat ok, but be careful to make sure you can still hear sirens and stuff (also earbuds/headphones while driving are illegal in many places)
-turn signals can basically function as a way of telling people around you “hey, pay attention! I’m about to do something!” Even if you’re just changing lanes or are swerving around an open car door you can use them to communicate that people should be ready for you to do something unexpected.
-traffic will stop much more quickly than you expect. Always keep an eye on the brake lights ahead of you.