Driving Anxiety: Ways to Overcome

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Like any other activity, driving involves some risks and therefore can be scary. The popular automobile blog Jalopnik has published a list of the top ten fears that people experience when they get behind the wheel. But in fact, the human imagination can generate an unlimited number of images and situations that can lead to driving anxiety.

Sure, it is very useful to know the variations of possible road-related dangers and how to avoid, manage or overcome them, when necessary. But frequently thinking over the possible driving dangers can lead to a bigger problem:  driving phobia. This tricky state of mind causes people to refuse to drive and in some cases even refuse to get inside a car.

Psychologists link the origins of driving anxiety to a few possible reasons. The first and the most common cause is a  traffic collision, especially if the person was involved or witnessed one.

Other things that can trigger the phobia include:

  • Being a victim of road rage.

  • Being yelled at and intimidated when learning to drive a car.

  • Driving in dangerous weather conditions, such in deep snow, on black ice, in heavy rain, fog, smog, etc.

  • Frightening news stories about bad vehicle collisions.

  • Fear of being criticized, fear of losing control of the car, and agoraphobia, which sometimes means fear of traveling long distances away from home.

The worst part of a driving phobia is if a person just refuses to drive at all costs and becomes totally dependent on others, which can make life incredibly inconvenient and complicated. Imagine if you were suffering from driving anxiety or even phobia. You wouldn’t be able to get to appointments, go shopping, hang out with friends or go anywhere else on your own. And what if your school or job isn’t within walking distance of your house? 

In many cases, it’s easier and more efficient to learn how to cure your driving anxiety than to put up with it. With a little help, it’s something any driver can overcome.

7 Ways to Keep Driving Anxiety in Check

1. Seek Help and Advice

As with generalized anxiety and other types of phobias, progress begins when you start talking about it. Talk to your friends, family and significant other. Chances are they’ve already noticed your reluctance to drive. 

Talking about your fears with a licensed therapist will help in identifying their origins and can reveal ways to manage the anxiety.

2. Gain Confidence With a Class

Consider taking driving lessons or a  defensive driving course that is meant to help you drive safely, get comfortable and feel confident behind the wheel.

3. Avoid Absolute Thinking 

Driving definitely involves some risks, but it doesn’t mean that something bad will inevitably happen to you. You can protect yourself by adhering to simple safe driving rules.

4. Chill Before You Get Behind the Wheel 

Relaxed drivers tend to be safer drivers that keep their composure. If you’re super-stressed don’t worry - it is possible to learn to drive in a relaxed manner and control your driving anxiety when you’re behind the wheel. Practice relaxation techniques before driving. Some recommend practicing  Zen driving is one driving practice that puts emphasis on relaxation before buckling up.

5. Start Slow

If you haven’t been driving for a long time, start with small steps: drive at low speeds, drive on empty streets, spend small amounts of time on the road and little-by-little increase your pace.

6. Stop by the Auto Shop

It’s a good idea to get the car checked up at the mechanic on a regular basis. Doing so will ensure your vehicle is operable and safe. Plus, some states require an annual inspection by law. 

7. Drive With Other People in the Car

Unfortunately, passengers are a driver distraction that are a fact of life. Rather than trying to go solo forever, it’s safer to learn to drive with others in the vehicle with you. You can even get helpful critiques by driving around with people who are good, safe drivers that you trust. 

Start by taking a driving class with professionals to brush up on your skills and get reassured about your abilities.

Don’t avoid dealing with your driving anxiety and risk disrupting your entire daily life. The sooner you seek help and start working on your issues, the sooner you will get back to cruising smoothly down the road.

*This article was updated on 5/29/2020

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