How to get over the fear of driving

On the Road 3 min read

If you’re trying to get over the fear of driving on the highway or even streets around your home, your first step is to understand that you’re not alone. Consider the symptoms and potential triggers of your fear of driving, and then pursue common treatments, such as driving school, relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy, or exposure therapy. If you have driving anxiety, read on for where to get help, along with strategies for how to overcome fear of driving.

What is driving anxiety or the fear of driving?

According to Martin Antony, PhD, in an episode of, Speaking of Psychology, driving phobia may be connected to several causes, including modeling, which can occur from having parents who were terrified of driving who modeled fearful behavior. In other cases, people who have experienced panic attacks behind the wheel or in other settings might develop a fear of having another panic attack while driving and losing control of the vehicle in the process.

What are some fears that people have about driving?

The fear of driving can exhibit itself in many ways. Not everyone who has driving phobia got it because of a traumatic experience. Some common fears about driving include:

  • Fear of getting into an accident: This might be the most common fear people have about driving. The thought that they might be involved in a crash can induce a fearful driver to have an anxiety or panic attack.
  • Fear of losing control: You may get anxious about losing control of the vehicle, or not being able to handle unexpected situations on the road.
  • Fear of driving alone: You may feel safer when driving with other people in the vehicle, especially at night or in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Fear of driving on highways: The high speed of vehicles and heavy traffic can cause you to have a fear of driving on highways or feel intimidated and anxious.
  • Fear of driving over bridges or in tunnels: Bridges, tunnels, crowded parking lots and other similar situations can trigger the fear of falling or being in an enclosed space with no way to get out should something tragic occur.
  • Fear of driving in bad weather: The thought of driving in rain or snow when there may be icy or windy conditions can cause driving anxiety.
  • Fear of driving after a previous accident: People who’ve been involved in a traffic crash may feel hesitant about getting behind the wheel again.
  • Fear of judgement or criticism: You might feel anxious about other drivers judging your driving skills or making mistakes while driving.

What causes fear of driving?

According to Defeating Phobia, driving phobia may be connected to several causes, including having been involved in a traffic accident, a specific phobia such as a fear of bridges, tunnels or traffic, and agoraphobia, which is the fear of open spaces. In other cases, people who have experienced panic attacks behind the wheel or in other settings might develop a fear of having another panic attack while driving and losing control of the vehicle in the process.

Is it normal to fear driving?

You can acknowledge the risk of driving a vehicle with a healthy respect for the inherent danger involved. Driving phobia, while not ideal, is common enough. When a healthy level of concern turns into a phobia that makes you fearful of driving or being in a car, it can negatively impact your work prospects and lifestyle.

What are the symptoms of driving phobia?

Healthline reports that the symptoms of driving phobia are similar to general anxiety symptoms, which include:

  • Panic and fear
  • A strong desire to get away from the car
  • Sweaty palms
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • A racing heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing

Tips for nervous drivers to get over the fear of driving

When a person is ready to try to get over their fear of driving, they have several options. If you’re a beginner, learn tips to manage new driver anxiety. Otherwise, here are some methods you can pursue as you begin the journey of getting over the fear of driving:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Working with a licensed therapist can help you get to the root cause of your phobia and guide you through a process of overcoming your driving fears.
  • Exposure therapy: By methodically exposing you to the situations that caused your anxiety, a licensed therapist can work with you to break down your fears and slowly build your confidence in a supported environment.
  • Driving school: If you have a fear of driving, you might take a driving course and have your therapist or a supportive friend ride along with you to help ease your anxiety. Practicing driving is a great way to receive positive reinforcement while learning essential driving techniques and strategies for becoming a safer driver.
  • Learn relaxation techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation and breathing exercises, can create an increased sense of calm and lower your anxiety levels while driving.
  • Visualize success: Nervous drivers might visualize themselves driving calmly, confidently, and safely.

Every person’s journey to overcoming the fear of driving will be different. Getting over a phobia is not an easy thing to do, but the results can be rewarding. With persistence, commitment and support, a person can overcome their driving anxiety and become a competent and safe driver.

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