Fear of driving is something that a lot of drivers have a problem with. Although it’s present mostly among new drivers, even ones with experience are not a stranger to this.
The common scene is: you enter the car, sit behind the wheel, and put the key into the ignition. But instead of a calm feeling like when doing something normal, you get a gut-wrenching feeling in your stomach. Just like when you’re about to encounter danger if you know what I mean.
Well, the truth is that you’re not supposed to have that feeling and driving should be a pleasant, even fun experience.
This article should help comprehend that fact and perhaps get rid of the fear of driving altogether.
You also have a video on this topic at the end of the article or you can watch it on our YouTube channel.
WHAT IS FEAR OF DRIVING ALSO CALLED?
I just wanted to mention the formal expression for fear of driving, if you ever need the information.
It’s also known as amaxophobia or vehophobia.
For the exact definition, click here to see an article provided by Wikipedia.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
Mild or severe panic
Sense of imminent danger
If these symptoms disappear once you get out of the car and feel a huge sense of relief, then you probably have fear of driving.
HOW TO OVERCOME FEAR OF DRIVING?
Before we start I would like to say that this isn’t professional medical advice. Please see this article as friendly advice from one driver to another.
It comes from someone that has over 20 years of experience driving a car, on all kinds of roads, and over 500000 kilometers under the belt.
At the beginning of my driving “career”, I had a serious fear of driving that I managed to successfully overcome by myself.
I hope these credentials are enough for you to read further on.
1. LOOK AT DRIVING AS A PLEASANT EXPERIENCE
This is perhaps the most important tip. If you use it, the fear of driving will certainly go away.
The fact is that driving is a very responsible task and demands constant caution which is, you’ll admit, daunting to some extent.
On the other hand, driving is meant to be a pleasant experience, giving you that irreplaceable feeling of freedom, autonomy, and sense of being your own commander.
The fact that car manufacturers have a made complete philosophy of making driving a pleasant experience speaks out for itself. Why do you think radios, CD-s, multimedia, various colored interiors were made?
So, when you grab that door handle and insert those keys, don’t think you’ve just entered a death trap, dungeon, or something meant to punish you. It’s the exact opposite.
You’re using a tool meant to make your life better, easier, and more convenient. Why not have some fun and pleasure in the process instead of being tense all the time?
2. DETERMINE WHAT ARE YOU EXACTLY AFRAID OF
You can’t fight the unknown.
When the fear appears, try to calm down for a moment and think. What is the real reason?
Does it appear in certain places, under certain circumstances, with certain people perhaps?
In those few seconds of self-analyzing, try and pinpoint the exact reason. Just like other problems in life, if you pinpoint the problem, you’re halfway home.
It may take several attempts to conclude what exactly causes fear of driving but be persistent and it will pay off, trust me.
3. BUILD UP YOUR CONFIDENCE
Fear often comes from a lack of confidence.
I’ll put it straight and simple: although you may have finished driving school or have some experience if you don’t have confidence you’re not a complete driver.
Confidence will make the difference between a pro and an average driver at best.
Once you’re behind the wheel get rid of any doubts, questioning yourself, or cold feet.
You’re perfectly capable of driving, if nothing else, you have the license to prove it.
Yes, you may need some more practice or you may not be the driving type, BUT YOU ARE CAPABLE!
Don’t be cockey or reckless but never let the lack of confidence stop you from becoming what you’re supposed to be and that’s a good driver.
4. KNOW THAT YOU’RE THE MASTER OF YOUR DRIVING
This one is closely related to confidence.
Once you’re behind the wheel, visualize yourself being the absolute chief and commander of your driving.
Don’t start driving before this is crystal clear.
You’re not a victim of driving, your its’ creator. Everything is not against you but in favor of you. There’s nothing bad looming around just waiting for you to make a mistake.
The car is not made for scaring but to serve you.
Yes, there will sometimes be unpredictable situations like car breakdowns, icy roads, fog, and careless drivers which will question and try to crumble this vision.
But even these, if you analyze them carefully, can be avoided if not completely prevented thanks to some thinking, attention, and careful planning.
You’re at the helm and this fact alone should help reduce the fear of driving.
5. PRACTICE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Practice makes perfect so the saying goes. The more you drive, the less fear there will be.
If you’re scared of driving under any circumstances, take some time, find a secluded road with less or no traffic and spend a couple of hours driving.
When driving on the highway is a problem, try driving when there’s less traffic, even if it means getting up earlier or going late at night.
I hope you get the point. Whatever the case may be, start from a less stressful environment and build up to the situation that’s actually causing the fear.
As you’ll see, over time everything you were afraid of will become routine even to the point that you’ll laugh at yourself for being afraid of driving in some situations.
Practice will turn fear into a routine.
6. KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE IN TRAFFIC
There’s an invisible force field around your car that you may not be aware of and that’s….distance.
Not only will it keep you out of harm’s way but it will enable you to react on time in case of an emergency.
Imagine yourself and your car in a comfy bubble, safe from everybody else. If something was to happen, you have plenty of time to react.
Even in worst cases like when you’re driving during a rush hour and a lot of nervous people are around you, honking, suddenly braking, cutting off or else, the distance will give you a sense of relief and lower the fear level.
7. DRIVE SLOWLY
Just like keeping distance, driving at a slower pace will keep you safer.
Safety means a reduced level of fear.
By driving slowly I don’t mean being a hazard on the road. Driving too slow is equally dangerous as driving too fast, especially on the highway.
Rather set a comfortable pace for yourself that will not interfere with the rest of the traffic while giving you a sense of relief and comfort.
8. DON’T NOT PAY ATTENTION TO AGRESSIVE DRIVERS
Keeping distance and driving slowly will sometimes lead you to encounter aggressive drivers, especially during rush hours or other parts of the day when there’s peak traffic.
You’ll easily recognize them as being rude, impolite, unpredictable, and often dangerous.
These drivers can’t control themselves and are often prone to road rage. I must mention this as an encounter with these drivers can easily deepen the already present fear of driving.
If this happens, the best tip I can give you is to completely ignore them and again keep a safe distance. Don’t let any gesture (middle fingers, manic waving, threatening, or else) get to you.
Safe distance will keep you from other acts of aggressive driving such as deliberate braking or attempts to cut you off.
9. TRY DEEP BREATHING
If you sense that the fear is starting to become unbearable for some reason, try deep breathing.
Slowly inhale and exhale while driving and feel the air going in and out of your body.
This has a soothing and calming effect and will help you focus for sure.
10. AVOID BAD THOUGHTS AND INDULGE YOURSELF
Don’t sit behind the steering wheel having bad feelings and hunches.
This is a nasty habit that is both distracting and severely heightens the fear of driving.
The truth is that many things can go wrong in traffic but it’s the same thing in other aspects of life.
From crossing a zebra, hazards at work, hazards at home, many dangers lurk around every corner.
This is a fact of life that doesn’t stop most people from getting out of the house and leading their normal lives. It’s the same with driving.
If it helps, unlike other aspects of life, traffic is a pretty arranged environment and most participants follow the codes and laws of driving, if for nothing else then for their own safety.
Enter the car with a positive overview and the belief of a good outcome.
Regarding the indulging part, small rituals (if your a fan of them) may reduce the fear of driving as long as they don’t interfere with safety.
Some favorite music, perhaps snacks or soft drinks will make a comfortable atmosphere while driving and significantly lower stress.
In the next part of the article we’ll be a bit more specific about different fears so it might help you better:
FEAR OF DRIVING ON HIGHWAYS
- Drive in the slow lane (not the stop lane, but the slow lane). Driving in the slow lane is usually less tense, less demanding, and slower. These circumstances alone should decrease the fear as you’ll get a feeling of protection and calmness.
- Don’t react to other drivers’ road rage. This is common on highways especially during rush hour and in peak traffic. Almost everybody is in a hurry and nervous. Sometimes driving at a slower pace will cause other drivers to honk, wave the finger at you, or else which is pretty threatening thus causing fear. Ignore this and continue at your own safe pace as long as it reduces the fear of driving. Of course, don’t drive too slow so you don’t endanger other participants in traffic.
- If you’re afraid of overtaking on the highway, then don’t do them for some time. This is a major cause of fear although there’s no safer place to make an overtaking than on a highway. Keep driving in the slow lane even if it means that the trip takes longer. But don’t make it a permanent habit and try to build up confidence as soon as you can.
FEAR OF DRIVING OVER BRIDGES
- Look at the bridge as any other part of the road. Imagine there isn’t a river, canyon, or else under it.
- Focus on the road ahead of you instead of looking around. If you have any other fear like the fear of heights or fear of water it will increase and accompany the already present fear of driving.
- When having fear of driving over bridges, have in mind that in most countries in the world bridges are made to be EXTRA safe. They are resilient to massive loads, strong winds, earthquakes, and else. This fact makes your fear totally irrational as you’re a flea on an elephant’s back. Even when there’s something wrong, there are always warnings and caution signs to alert you.
FEAR OF DRIVING ALONE
- This fear is in my opinion is based on confidence in your driving skills. Build up the confidence and this fear will disappear.
- If you’re accustomed to having a co-driver in the car, don’t quit this habit at once. Ask someone to accompany you at first, but try driving on your own whenever possible.
- Take a drive by yourself on secluded roads and ones with low traffic. This way, you’ll get the hang of it easier and be safe at the same time.
FEAR OF DRIVING IN SNOW AND ICE
- The biggest fear when driving in winter is losing control over the car. Always drive slowly and with caution and you should be safe. Snow and especially ice is very tricky to drive on and even professionals get themselves in trouble easily. Slow means safe.
- Preparing your car for the winter season means a lot as it will give you more confidence and security.
- Keep a safe distance at all times. Any kind of reaction takes double or triple the time than when the weather is normal. As mentioned, proper distance is your safety bubble and tool for reducing fear.
If you want to learn more about driving during the winter season, click here for a separate article on that topic.
FEAR OF DRIVING IN THE RAIN
- Tips for helping you overcome the fear of driving in the rain are similar to the ones for snow. So, drive slowly, with caution, have good tires, use the brake wisely and keep a safe distance.
- Good visibility is very important. Make sure that you always have good wiper blades installed. If you don’t, you can click here and see how to replace them.
- If the fear is intense, avoid driving in rain during the night. This driving can be demanding even for a good driver. Drive during the day until the fear reduces and eventually completely disappears.
FEAR OF DRIVING AT NIGHT
- Make sure you have the best possible visibility. The headlights should be in top condition meaning that they are clean and they have good quality bulbs installed. A better sight of the road and traffic means that your safer and this means less fear.
- Don’t think that something is lurking from the dark just waiting to attack you. With good visibility on the road and some normal caution, the chances of having trouble are almost equal to when driving in daylight (at least from my experience).
- Once again, drive slowly and keep a safe distance. Besides this, having some company or listening to nice music while driving is also a good thing. Driving at night is somewhat specific and sort of gloomy so cheering up the atmosphere can be a big plus.
Get rid of the fear of driving as soon as possible. It can forever ruin a pleasant, useful experience and skill which driving, in fact, is.
Even more important, high levels of fear will make you tense, nervous, prone to overreacting, and cause a lack of attention. In this state, you’re a danger on the road and for other participants in traffic.
To simplify, fear is good to some level, over that it’s outright dangerous.
As with all fears, it won’t go away overnight. It takes time, effort, and persistence. Take it slowly, with caution but never surrender.
Besides this, driving in today’s times is a necessity and most of us spend a lot of time in the car. That’s a heck of a lot of time being afraid and not feeling comfortable.
You have a right and need to drive normally. There’s no need to let some fear deprive you of that.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
HOW TO OVERCOME FEAR OF DRIVING-YOUTUBE VIDEO