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Title: The reaction to hazards in young novice drivers with an autism spectrum disorder: a driving simulator study
Authors: ROSS, Veerle 
JONGEN, Ellen 
BRIJS, Kris 
VANROELEN, Giovanni 
Maltagliati, Irene
BEELEN, Caroline 
Ruiter, Robert A. C.
WETS, Geert 
Issue Date: 2017
Source: Proceedings of the 7th International Road Safety and Simulation
Abstract: Background. A driving skill that has been directly related to traffic safety is the ability to perceive and respond to hazards. The current paper focusses on the latter skill, the reaction to hazards. In order to recognize possible hazardous situations and predict how they might develop, it is necessary to use the given context to construct meaning. People with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) however are considered to lack contextual sensitivity, described as ‘context blindness’; therefore, novice drivers with ASD might be less able to use contextual information to predict what will happen next. Moreover, hazard perception could be related to working memory, which allows to maintain and manipulate information in mind. Method. The current driving simulator study aimed to compare the reaction to hazards of young novice drivers with ASD (n=19) to a control group of neurotypical young novice drivers (n=21) and investigated the relation between working memory and hazard reaction. Three hazard types were included, behavioral prediction, environmental prediction, and dividing and focusing hazards. Results and conclusion. The results indicated little differences between the reactions to hazards for both groups, indicating that the ASD group was able to use contextual information in predicting subsequent events. The few differences between groups were related to working memory capacity. With low working memory capacity, the control group needed more time to brake to the EP hazards than the ASD group. With high working memory capacity, the control group showed a more abrupt speed change towards DF hazards when compared to the ASD group. More research is called for, including more ecological validity (e.g., eye-tracking, distractors, and more hazards per category) and multiple cognitive measures.
Keywords: driving simulation; autism spectrum disorders; road hazards; working memory
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Category: C2
Type: Proceedings Paper
Appears in Collections:Research publications

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