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Tips For Driver’s With Autism When Driving In Snowy Conditions

  • January 29, 2022
  • Jeremy Farrell

We all know how the difficulty of a drive is closely related to the weather you'll be driving in. Certain conditions can make driving a lot more carefree or a lot more challenging and dangerous. Most people quickly learn that sunny and lightly cloudy conditions make for much easier drives than heavy rain. Very often though, the most dreaded weather to drive in is snow. Many drivers fear, including those with autism, and avoid driving in the snow as much as possible, and I completely understand this. Snow must never be underestimated as it can quickly turn any drive into a potential hazard. Depending on the temperature and inches of snow on the ground, it can also cause disturbances on any road. A mix of snow and rain can add further challenges to everyday driving, and we all know that it’s only a matter of time before the snow on the road turns to ice. Many drivers have had to take a drive through snowy conditions, and it absolutely can be done with safety placed at the forefront! In this blog post, I am going to provide a few tips for those with autism on driving in snowy conditions in case the situation does arise in your life. We should always prepare for these types of common driving situations, but I also want to stress it’s important to know and understand your limits. If driving during certain conditions is too much for you, it is okay to avoid it, and I will discuss that further later on. Though most of our blog posts are specifically targeted towards autistic individuals and drivers with autism, this post is written with all drivers in mind. This information is important to every new driver, but even more for autistic drivers due to common executive functioning and motor skill difficulties. With all of that being said, let’s discuss some tips for driving safely and successfully navigating during snowy conditions!

Warming up and cleaning off your car: Due to the Winter season’s colder temperatures, your car’s engine may take more time to warm up before being ready to drive. It is common for an engine to stutter when being turned on in extremely cold weather, in these cases drivers with autism should allow it to warm up. This will also provide time for your car to warm up on the inside as well which will help you feel more comfortable while driving. Don’t leave it on for too long, especially if you are in an area where car thefts are common. While you’re letting your engine and car warm up for a few minutes, it is wise to take this time to clean off any snow or ice that is covering your vehicle. Anything that is blocking your vision is the obvious priority, but it is also important to clean off the top of your car. It only takes a few minutes and makes driving during these conditions much safer. There are those drivers who rush into driving without cleaning off their cars, and during their drive, ice and snow are falling from the top of their car distracting them and other drivers. Snowy conditions can already be dangerous if not approached with caution and care, and this is a way to show that caution and care before you even start driving.

Driving Slow: Like with rain, going fast in snowy conditions is completely out of the question for any and every driver due to how dangerous it can be. Snow can quickly lead to roads being very slippery either because of snow, slush, or ice. If a driver were to drive at their typical speed, it is possible that the driver could lose control of their car. Visibility can also be affected by snowfall and makes your surroundings harder to see when driving. At its worst, these factors can lead to a serious car accident. As an autistic driver myself, I recommend that all drivers stay about 5 to 10 mph under their current road’s speed limit sign. I drove in the snow for a bit back in February 2021 and while I was completely safe, it was uncomfortable and worrying at times. The ground gave me little traction which made it harder to gauge how hard I should press the gas pedal, and I could feel that the too quick of a turn could lead to me losing control of my vehicle. It is possible to do so safely, but know your limits, drive slowly, take your time.

Dealing with Ice/Black ice: One of the most dangerous driving hazards is ice, particularly black ice which can be extremely difficult to spot. Ice can also develop on the roads under a few different conditions including rain. But snow is most often the culprit. Melting snow can quickly turn to ice as the temperature fluctuates around it, and to put it simply, this can be dangerous. With ice, every autistic driver has no choice but to be extremely careful. Icy roads carry a high risk of getting involved in an accident if handled recklessly. My most important advice is to drive gently and avoid any sudden actions or motions like sharp turns or braking suddenly. Take your time with braking especially and do not press down on the brake pedal too quickly. Also, make sure you increase the following distance between yourself and the car ahead of you compared to driving in easier conditions. You never want to be in a situation where you need to brake, but the car in front of you is too close to stop in time. A good driver never forgets how dangerous icy roads can be.

Type of tires: There are several different types of tires that can help cars more effectively drive in snowy conditions. Among these are winter tires that can help improve your car’s ability to stop and handle well overall when driving in the snow. For cars that require different tires for each season, winter tires are a smart and safe investment. There are also other types of tires such as all-weather tires that can help to a lesser extent. The important thing as a driver with autism is to look into all the resources available for staying safe on the road, and that includes different types of tires.

Alternatives: A lot of the time, it’s just safer to stay home during snowy conditions. Not only can driving in the snow be dangerous, but snowstorms can become far more dangerous very suddenly. Depending on your job and if you have the ability to work remotely, there is no shame in skipping a winter drive you don’t feel prepared for. After all, being safe is vital to continuing to be an effective employee. If you have what you need for a workday at your home, it is a legitimate decision worth considering. Some jobs in fields like schoolwork may call you in advance if snow conditions become worse and may take the decision out of your hands, but some don’t. This is where knowing your limits as an autistic driver and resources is extremely important. At the least, you should talk with your employer about how they handle snow days and other dangerous driving conditions. Asking questions is always a good start, and knowing what alternatives you have to drive in snowy conditions can save you a lot of trouble.

Overall, snowy driving conditions are not something to be taken lightly. It can greatly impact everything from road traction to traffic patterns, so driving gently is a key to getting in as little trouble as possible. Choosing not to drive in select situations is also a choice, and often an important one all of us have to make at some point in our lives. Topics such as driving in snowy conditions are why we have a course on managing changes and anxiety. Being effectively prepared for all driving conditions, especially the most dangerous, is crucial to being a safe driver who has autism.

Driving With Autism is excited to be part of your learning to drive journey! We have several free resources including other blog posts, a free eBook, and a Newsletter you can sign up for! In January 2022 we will also be running our first 7-Part educational webinar series on various topics that are crucial to learning to drive as an autistic individual. You can learn more and sign up for these courses by navigating to the “Buy Training Series” tab at the top of the page. We have a specific package that comes with extra resources such as a 60-minute consultation with Founder Andrew Arboe and access to our Resource Library which covers all 50 states. We look forward to hearing from you and we look forward to working with you!

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