Why Aspies Can’t Drive

No Aspies Sign

My son would like to learn to drive. I don’t know if he’d be a good driver. He’s a very responsible person, of course, but he has so many concentration problems as he has attention deficit, hyperactivity and Asperger’s.

I have some friends with attention deficit and they can’t drive. And I know my son. He can’t even walk down the street without chasing after every butterfly (or urban equivalent) that crosses his path. So you can see why I don’t trust him to be a good driver.

I have attention deficit and I find driving difficult. I find it’s so easy to get distracted, everything distracts me when I’m driving.

I TRY to pay attention to the road. But all things disturb me.

For example if you don’t have attention deficit and someone jumps around on the sidewalk beside you you don’t pay much attention and you keep driving. If I’m driving and someone jumps around on the sidewalk I start to look at them and then I forget that I’m driving.

And I start to look around and wonder why the person is jumping around and then I start to invent or speculate on reasons why the person is jumping around. And I forget that I’m driving.

Also because I have Asperger’s I have difficulty processing information.

In my case I have difficulty processing visual information. When I see something, I don’t know what I’m seeing. It takes me a little while before I realize what I’m looking at.

There’s a saying in Spanish when someone is looking for an object like, say, a mitten. The mitten is sitting in an obvious place in front of the person and when the person finally realizes the mitten is right in front of them they say, good thing it’s not a dog or it would’ve bitten me already.

For most people, that sort of thing happens maybe once every blue moon. For me, that sort of thing happens multiple times every day.

That means that when I’m driving it takes me a long time before I realize that that large black object in front of me is a car, so I brake.

If you add to that that maybe at the very moment a large unidentifiable (to me) black object jumps out in front of me, perhaps I am distracted observing a person jumping around on the sidewalk and wondering why they are jumping. Then you can see that there are all the ingredients to have an accident.

I read a really good article on people with ADHD and driving. It’s really helpful and offers a lot of useful tips.

For example it says to help you stay aware of what is around you when you’re driving — which I have a lot of trouble with — the driver can practise voicing out loud and enumerating what he is seeing.

For example, he can say, there’s a pedestrian cross sign up ahead so I must look around and see if someone is about to cross. There’s a sign on the street I want to turn onto and that sign means no entry, one way. So I can’t turn onto it. I must continue ahead until I find a street I can turn onto.

I often need to describe out loud what I am seeing (not when I’m driving, I mean, in real life, for example walking down the street) because if I don’t I really have no idea what I’m seeing. I’m not aware of it.

I TRY to be aware of it. But my mind only registers an amorphous unidentifiable blue object and an amorphous unidentifiable red object etc. in front of me.

I have to say out loud, ok so now there is a red car in front of me and on the right there is a blue sign in a large store window.

Another helpful tip is to put colourful stickers on the steering wheel, says the article. That prevents your attention from wandering when you’re bored, which happens to me. When I’m bored I start to look around at every place except the street.

I don’t do it on purpose, just my mind wanders off all by itself, and I’m not aware of it.

All my life I’ve had to battle my mind wandering about even when just walking down the street, to the point that after I’ve been walking around for a while I have no idea where I’ve been. Which streets I’ve walked down or which part of town I’m in.

Unless I recognize the part of town I’m in. But if I don’t I have no idea where I am and no idea how I got there.

Plan your route ahead of time, continues the article. I really need to do that.

Because people with ADHD are very disorganized so they can’t prioritize on the spot when they’re driving. So they have to plan the route ahead so before they set out they already know what they should do first, second, third etc.

For example, I can never understand how people (who don’t have ADD) are able to figure out what to cook first, second, third etc. when preparing a meal. I myself am only able to prepare one dish at a time.

I’m the sort of person who will take out an egg because I want a boiled egg, then I don’t know what to do with the egg. Then I figure out I need a pot to boil the egg in.

So I set the egg down somewhere and get a pot. Then I can’t find the egg.

When I finally find the egg I put it in the pot and put it on the stove. After about half an hour I will realize I need to put some water in the pot.

Then I’ll put the pot on the stove to boil the egg, go to the bedroom, start watching a video on YouTube and one hour later I’ll remember I left an egg to boil on the stove.

I will rush out thinking the pot has burnt but fortunately chances are I forgot to turn on the stove anyway.

Also, people like me who are on the spectrum probably have a slow processing speed. That means when something unexpected happens, we’re slow to react.

It takes us a long time to figure out just exactly what happened, so we can respond appropriately. And when you’re driving, split-second reactions are necessary.

People with attention deficit need to practise driving a lot more before they become as good as people without ADD are at driving.

According to the article, taking ADHD medication helps a lot because it helps you not get distracted so easily and it helps enormously to focus and concentrate on the task at hand, in this case, driving.

Although, for me, that is not an option. Because I’m very much against taking this sort of medication, due to the side effects.

And in fact, as an Aspie, I actually am very very good at concentrating on something I’m keenly interested in. I’m so good I can concentrate on just this one thing for 10 hours non-stop and not pay attention to or notice anything else. But when I’m not keenly interested in something I get distracted easily.

Have people with ADHD learn skills at a slower pace, quoth the article. For example you should become good at driving during the day before you add in the skill of driving during the night. Become good at driving in low traffic hours before you dash out in your car during rush hour.

And introduce each new challenge slowly. Because otherwise it’s too many things all at once and very distracting.

As an Aspie I can’t pay attention to a bunch of things all at once. It’s too much for my slow brain processer to process. I get overwhelmed and confused and I can’t understand what is happening when there’s a lot of stimuli or a lot of things to pay attention to and think about at the same time.

And driving requires you to pay attention to a lot of things at the same time. You’re bombarded by a lot of information all at once.

You have to pay attention to the traffic lights, traffic signs, all the people on the sidewalks around you and of course, the multitude of cars on all sides of you.

And that really is just too much for my 1-byte-of-RAM-memory brain.

My friends with attention deficit were unable to get a driver’s licence for reasons such as: driving the wrong way down a street because they didn’t see the one way sign. Or perhaps, like me, because they couldn’t identify it in time before turning onto the street.

Getting nervous and driving into a bunch of garbage bins. Hitting a car because they didn’t see it.

I can’t remember all the reasons why my friends couldn’t get a licence but those are the sorts of things that happen to people with attention deficit and Asperger’s.

And why it’s so hard for us to drive.

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