An autistic driving instructor’s tips for great driving

Whether you’re fairly new to driving, just got your first Motability Scheme car or you’ve been a Scheme customer for a while, you can improve your driving and enjoy it even more with these tips from autistic driving instructor Dr Julia Malkin.


As the first driving instructor to qualify with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and a member of the Institute of Master Tutors of Driving, Dr. Julia Malkin, MBE is highly-respected in her field.

In 2010 she featured on the BBC programme Autistic Driving School and a year later she received an MBE for her services to help people with autism.  

Here she passes on valuable tips from her many years’ experience as a driver and instructor.

Minimise distractions

One of Dr. Malkin’s top tips for safer, happier, driving is not to rely on a SatNav: “Every driver should be able to read a map. If you’re in traffic a SatNav won’t give you a clear route out. Your eyes will. Learn to love maps.”

Also don’t have the radio on if you’re driving in an area unfamiliar to you or your car is new – so if you’ve just changed your Scheme car, make sure you get used to it before listening to music while driving.  

CDs and personal playlists are better than the radio as you are in control of what you hear whereas the radio can burst into your concentration with news items. However it can also be handy for weather and traffic updates. Assess each time you drive whether it’s a good idea to have the radio on or not. 

The Motability Scheme can help

The Motability Scheme makes leasing a car an easy, hassle-free experience. With the Scheme, you can exchange part or all of your qualifying mobility allowance to lease a brand-new vehicle of your choice. 

You’re supported by the Scheme throughout the lease as insurance for up to three named drivers, maintenance and breakdown cover is already included in the price you pay. 

Find out more

Plan your journey

If you’re driving somewhere new always work out where you’re going first. Plan your journey. Make sure you know where you’re going before you even get into your car. Check oil, water, petrol, supplies, electrics and make sure your headlamps are clean so people can see if you have your lights on. 

The four factors when driving

The four things you should be concentrating on when driving are: your hands, your feet, your eyes, and where your car is in relation to the road. All the information we take in relates to those four components. “If you’re distracted when driving come back to those four factors.”

It’s important for people with autism to learn to filter out distractions says Dr. Malkin. “Everything comes at us at 90 mph. Our perception of a hazard is different. So we have to learn how to respond and react.”

All drivers learn to tell the difference between a distraction and a useful observation. Eventually it comes naturally to us. Some information we take in is not only useful but essential – such as a child running along the pavement. Are they going to leap out in front of a moving car? Being aware we need these filters helps us improve our observations when driving. 

Keep your skills up

“On the anniversary of your driving test get your highway code out and read it again. Things change. Every five years have more training. Have a motorway lesson once you’ve passed your L test and driven for a bit. Don’t see passing your L test as final; see it as the start,” suggests Dr. Malkin. 

And once you’ve been driving for a while take the advanced driving test. IAM (formerly the Institute of Advanced Motorists, a charity formed in 1956) offers courses in advanced driving and local groups you can join. RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) has similar schemes. 

Drive within the law

Autistic drivers usually shy away from breaking the law as they tend to obey regulations and rules. “We want to conform and comply. We don’t want to break the law. We want to belong. Regulation is something we understand,” says Dr. Malkin. “When driving we are in charge of a huge machine that can affect others. So all drivers should be keen to follow rules of the road. A speed restriction may sometimes seem illogical but if it’s there, it’s there for a reason,” adds Dr. Malkin.

Practise

“Some people are almost claustrophobic and won’t drive far. They stick to known routes and their local area. They can learn to overcome this with confidence building gradually going a bit further each time they go out,” says Dr. Malkin. 

So keep driving! Test yourself out in unfamiliar territory. Get out of your comfort zone. It’s good for your confidence as a driver and your overall self esteem and confidence. 

Am I eligible for the Motability Scheme? 

You can find out if you are eligible for the Motability Scheme using our eligibility checker. The next step after that is making an appointment to visit a Scheme specialist at your nearest dealer to pick out and test drive cars. You can prepare for your visit in advance using our handy dealer visit checklists which should help you narrow down your options.

If you’d like to find out more about the Scheme, request an information pack below and we’ll send you all the information that you need to make the right choice.

Get a free information pack

 

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How the Motability Scheme can help if you care for someone with autism

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