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Highway Driving With Autism

  • September 28, 2021
  • Andrew Arboe

One of the quickest ways to get to places are the highways or freeways, as they are called. On these types of roads, there are no traffic lights, multiple lanes, and the typical speed ranges from 65mph or more, depending on the location. With differences, it also comes with challenges to adapt. Because of driving fast speeds, you might fall into driving hypnosis, which is a mental state you can fall into when driving long in fast speeds. Another challenge is managing multiple lanes and watching all cars in your mirrors, while knowing which lane to be in before you make your next move. Focusing on multiple things at once in a setting like that can be scary, especially if you see the daily accidents on the news. Add it with the autism aspect and it might make it more complicated. That is why I am here, and I want to share my experiences to help you make sense of the highways and lit up a path for you. Here are some tips that can you help you get used to the highway.

  1. Focus on Two Lane Roads and Building Up Lane Changing Skill: The very first thing you should do is to drive more on two lane roads. Two lane roads are often a good way to get used to the feel of having other drivers drive past you. Plus, the lanes themselves have rules to follow and are used in similar ways (the left is more for passing, while the right lane is the travel lane). The most important reason to drive these roads is the opportunity to build up your lane changing skill. This is a critical skill because you will be using this skill all the time, when driving the highway. You must learn to judge the right moment you can merge to the other lane. You must consider not only the car’s blind spots but being able to look to your mirrors to make sure there are no cars. Sometimes, the roads can be busy, so you must make the right move.
  2. Find Out Which Highways Have Two Lanes: Most highways have three or more lanes, but there are some that are only two lanes. In Connecticut, routes 8, 9, and 2 are highways that usually stick to two lanes with some differences during those routes. The reason I would recommend using a highway with two lanes is because your experience on regular two-lane roads can translate to the highway much more. In my experience, route 8 in Winsted was the most useful in increasing my skills on the highway.

As shown in this picture, you do not have to use the entrance ramp to get on this highway. All you must do here is to enter the highway, be in the lane you want and go up to 60-65mph. This is helpful because I can control most aspects of this highway, outside of the cars and weather conditions. I can control my car and my actions, as I adapt to the highway conditions.

  1. Break down highway driving in steps: What also helped me was breaking the task into steps. The first step as you know was getting used to two lane roadways. Here are the steps I needed to get to have a better understanding and improvement of my skills.
  2. Get used to two lane roads
  3. Speed control
  4. Get used to exit ramps
  5. Entrance ramps
  6. Deal with three lane roads or more

As you see, completed these actions in steps because I did not want to overwhelm myself. Especially since I was doing this behind my father’s back. (I do not recommend this, but I learn more when I am on my own. If you do this, please be safe and responsible). I knew I had what it takes, and I was motivated to prove that I have the ability to drive on more roads.  I usually can tell that I mastered a skill based on how natural it feels doing the task. With this, I used Route 8 to get the next steps down and once I did my first few entrance ramps, it felt so good.

  1. Choose roads that you want to use: This one I will give my autism credit for. As much of a complex relationship I have with my autism, I am glad that sticking to the same roads was something that paid off in my skill improvement. Because of the rule I created with my dad that I had to stay on local roads, it taught me countless lessons. The conditions and weather change, but the road layout does not change too much. This allows for different situations to occur each day, like there is road construction, or driving during rush hour. I was able to adapt to each situation and still finish my daily tasks. Once I got used to the highway, I applied the same logic to those roads and I took a real liking to other routes like 9, 291, 2, and 691. I know some may say that you must use regular major highways to places, but I am going to say this: it is okay to use roads you know. Life is not black and white, and there are hidden ways to solve a problem. Not being comfortable with a major highway like 84, is a valid feeling. Every driver is different, so we all have preferences. Be careful with being complacent. Eventually you may have to drive through some difficult roads, so you must continue building their skills. I-84 going through Hartford, is a highway I avoid. I used it recently because I wanted to have a better understanding about it. I still may not use it all the time, but it is good experience to have.
  2. Use excuses to go on highways: My last advice to parents and individuals is to create excuses for going on the highway. The most important thing is being consistent with your driving skills. The second you do not use them as much, the skills start to decrease. Even for simple trips like going to work or heading home, you can use that time to go on the highway. I use the times I drive from Wallingford to the way back by highway 84 to head over to Farmington. The amount of times you do a skill, you get it more refined as a result.

Overall, driving on the highway can be scary, but manageable. At the end of the day, it is the individual driver’s decision to use the highways or not. Look at all the skills needed and see how you fare and make an informed choice. As always, you can email me any questions on the highways and have a good day.

Andrew Arboe is the Founder of Driving With Autism and specializes in helping autistic drivers and their families pursue driving as a transportation option. He found his path on driving because of his personal experiences learning how to drive, while autistic. He saw the difficulties that a lack of resources and research can add to transportation, which connects people to opportunities, employment, and secondary education. It is for those reasons he chose to challenge the lack of resources by presenting workshops, consulting with autistic individuals and parents, and much more. Andrew knows that he cannot speak for everyone’s experience, so he embraces using tips, tricks, and important concepts to help new drivers create their own roadmap for learning to drive.


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