How did your fear of driving start? Can you recall any particular frightful incident involving you or someone close to you? Have you heard of terrible experiences from someone?
Whatever the cause of your fear of driving a car, that particular scary experience has snowballed into a major crisis – a driving phobia. You may be suffering from palpitation, sweating, lightheadedness, short and irregular breaths, quivering hands, or feelings of losing control or thoughts of crashing.
These symptoms are actually a cumulative effect of the actual fear of driving (which is a tiny portion to begin with) and the fear of having these symptoms. Unfortunately it’s become a vicious cycle that keeps escalating.
The Vicious Cycle of Fear of Driving
First stage in this cycle is the actual fear of driving caused by any incident, real or imagined. A mere remembrance brings with it slight symptoms of sweat, trembling or any of the ones mentioned above.
In the second stage of this fear cycle, you begin to fear that the symptoms will escalate. This fear of symptoms makes you even more afraid of driving, thereby worsening your symptoms.
In the third stage you give in to your feelings of fear and give up driving. You avoid the situation.
In the final stage, you experience a sharp fall in symptoms of fear because you have given up the idea of driving. This sends out a signal to your subconscious mind telling it that the way of reducing fear of driving is to avoid driving. Your belief that you fear driving gets reinforced.
How to Overthrow This Belief That You Have a Fear of Driving?
The only way to break into the fear cycle, get hold of it and eliminate it from your subconscious mind is to de-link the feelings of fear associated with driving and re-link it with pleasant and happy feelings instead.
This process can be successfully executed with a technique discussed below that reprograms the subconscious mind.
Reprogramming Technique for Overcoming Fear of Driving
Sit back and relax on your couch to perform this exercise for overcoming your fear of driving. It works by replacing the feelings of anxiety with those of peace in your subconscious mind.
Think of something very pleasant and beautiful. Recall a day when you felt happy, relaxed and secure. Maybe it was on a holiday with your family, at the beach lying in the sun, or when you first held your newborn.
Pick up something from your memory and relive those wonderful feelings, the smell, the touch, the sounds…
The key is vividness. Recall your blissful feelings vividly.
Now, just for a length of two seconds, imagine yourself driving your car. Go back to your memories immediately. Drift into those feelings again.
After a minute or so, once again imagine yourself driving your car, for no more than two seconds.
Revert to your blissful and “safe” memories immediately, before allowing fear or anxiety build up. Continue this cycle for about 20 minutes.
What’s going to happen is your brain will reprogram itself to associate feelings of peace and happiness with driving. The old programming will be broken. You shall be a different person within two weeks.
That was how to overcome fear of driving using a brain reprogramming technique. You can easily overcome the general fear of driving through this technique.
But you need to go deeper and find out exactly what you are scared of while driving. And we will work a way through that too. Find out – is it a general fear of driving phobia, driving on freeways or bridges, phobia of busy intersections, fear of how to park on crowded streets without smashing a light…?
How to Overcome Your Specific Fear of Driving
Once you find out what exactly scares you while driving, sit next to an experienced driver among your family or friends, and observe how they do it.
Now apply the technique that we discussed above right there as your partner drives through the scary bridge, intersection, freeway, or whatever that gives you the fear of driving.
For example, consider that you have fear of driving on freeways . Watch your partner drive effortlessly and skillfully on the freeway.
Absorb the situation. Sit back, relax, and think of something that makes you feel happy, relaxed and peaceful. Close your eyes if need be.
Draw from your memories and fill your mind with those feelings. Not so difficult when you are in the passenger seat with eyes closed.
Now once every minute, for two seconds each, open your eyes and imagine yourself in the driver’s seat driving the car. Continue this cycle for 15-20 minutes or until the feeling of fear dissociates with driving on the freeway. Open your eyes and continue to imagine yourself driving with those feelings still in your mind.
Now switch places with your partner and practice. You’ll feel much better than going it all alone. You can overcome your fear of driving on freeways or bridges or anything else in this way.
What is your fear of driving over bridges anyway? The bridge isn’t going to collapse? All you really need to do is look straight ahead and follow a straight line behind the other cars in front of you. If you do this you won’t hit the sides or crash into the separator. Practice the reprogramming technique and you’ll be fine.
Take it step by step. It’s a wise thing to do especially if your fear of driving tends towards phobia. If you have a fear of driving over bridges, first drive over really small ones.
Then drive over those that are about the length of 1-2 blocks and more. Finally proclaim your victory over the fear of driving over bridges by driving over really long bridges spanning water. If you have a fear of driving on freeways, take the first exit after ramping up.
Next time go further. Initially stick to the rightmost lane. As you gain in confidence go one to the left.
You can find more of such techniques in the Driving Fear Program. Hundreds of people like you have overcome their fear of driving with this program.
The author himself has gone on from being a timid driver to an adventurous one and he wants to share his tips with you.
- Dan Carneal April 12, 2010, 7:57 pm
Hello, I am Dan Carneal, a driver’s ed student who just discovered there’ssomething hindering me from doing well, driving anxiety. I have only been in one car crash, and it wasn’t fatal, however, as a driving student, I have responsibilities I can’t meet because of my driving anxiety. I am kind of always thinking that yes, Crashes are a Reality, which, they are, so maybe how can I stop thinking about crashes?
Thanks for reading. I hope to hear back.
Hello! I`ve stopped my entire life because of this fear.I`m 33 years old and now I’ve finally sucked it up and went in for my beginner’s permit. I feel foolish, stunted, and emotionally immature. I do suffer from general anxiety disorder, so this is going to be a major milestone for me..But the fact that my actual driving skills are okay are what keep me going forward.
When I am driving in the morning, when I reach a tunnel, I am feeling that my vehicle is moving towards right also I am thinking that my car will meet an accident. it is in the same place almost all the time and also in highways.
I have been suffering from this enxiety for some time now, I susually freeze and also feels like I will crush into the car approching form my right hand side. I experienced the same thing again this morning and the only thing that saved me was prayer. I started praying. I think it is about time I seek professional help.
Hello, last year I was in an accident where our vehicle flipped over 3 times. I am now 17 years of age and I should be driving already, some days I want too but other days I can’t bring myself to even think about it without having a panic attack. What should I do?
I’m afraid of the whole experience of driving. One, I’m afraid that since I’ve waited so long I’m embarrassed that I’m just now starting to drive and I’m 26. Two, I’m afraid of being responsible for other people on the road and in the same vehicle as me. Third, I’ve been in 3 wrecks. And last but not least I’m embarrassed that my skills aren’t where they should be for my age……
Fear controls me while i am driving as i am a beginner driver i had one accident small one but i couldn’t sleep that night thinking of it. parking is my big problem so i guess i will follow that program to overcome my driving fear
practice, practice, practice. some of you have been in accidents, thank god everyones ok. i would look at it like riding a bike, you fell but it was no big deal, you gotta get back up, i am conquering my fear of driving one day at a time, its working, i feared going the wrong way or making a mistake on the road, that would cost me my life or someone else for that matter, however, what we are dealing with here is negative risk. everyday we take risks, just depends on how you look at it. risk is in the eye of the beholder, i agree with the article above, you gotta change your thinking, and you all can do it, hell i can and will do it. think about about how many risks you all take each and everyday, you be surprised how you managed to survive. ) after you do that its time to get busy, get a freind or pay for practice driving classes tell the instructor hey im afraid, let him show you the techniques calmly, and then do it over and over and reassure yourself, that you can do this. has anyone here ever looked at other drivers, i think its sometimes hilariouse, they come in all shapes and sizes some look clueless, others look confident, still others look cautiouse, and so on, bottom line they are out there doing it while we are stuck in fear, fear is good but common we gotta live! posting this has just helped me. )
jose June 5, 2010, 3:12 pm
all of you need a good laugh. i dont know you but you all seem like people with great personalities, and i just want to encourage you all you can do it. its funny i have a fear of driving, but we are just gonna have to find out what happens, because life, is full of risks, and if i dont get over this fear of driving then i risk the joys of coming and going as i please wherever i want, to big of a risk if you ask me, but then again thats just me.
guys im not trying to be insensative about this issue, its real, and seriouse, but i know you can all do this.
laugh and then go drive.
Brian June 17, 2010, 6:43 pm
I have a pretty serious fear of driving my car. It all started when some man in a white pickup truck tried to cut me off when two lanes merged into one, then he followed me into my neighborhood and got out of his car, and threatened to kill me for about 30 minutes. He was twice my size (definitely overweight) and liked Harley Davidson motorcycles. He talked about how he would tie a cinder block to my foot and throw me in a lake and how easy that would be. At this point, I was scared out of my mind. I surely thought I was going to be killed by this man.
Another incident came when someone on a motorcycle cut in front
of me by using the shoulder to get to the front of the pack to a red light, so he could be first when it turned green. He ended up looking both ways at the intersection, and ran the red light. I wanted to get the license plate of this guy and report him to the local police for such a major traffic offense, but then the motorcyclist threatened me through my open window and said “you don’t want to mess with someone like me”, and then proceeded to speed up and pass six or seven other cars by using the shoulder again.
Then, one time, I was getting into my car to go leave for a movie. I had parked it at a school to go play football with a buddy of mine on the field….the school, which was nearby the onramp to go to the next town, had a good movie theater. As I was leaving to go catch the movie with my friend, a man dressed as a police officer approached my car when I was pulling out of the parking lot. He jumped right in front of my car and I swurved to get out of the way. I didn’t know if he was a policeman or not because he didn’t show me any badge, nor did I see a police cruiser nearby, and his actions of attempting to stop the car with his own body seemed like it could have been just a weirdo on drugs, so I freaked out. As I swurved around him to get out of his way, he threw his maglight into my back passenger window, which shattered and cut my face, the maglight sitting in my back seat. I didn’t know what to do, so I went home. I ended up realizing he was a legitimate police officer when my friend, who was stopped at gunpoint by the same officer, allowed the policeman to use his cell phone to call me, and he left a message saying he wanted his maglight back. I invited the police over to my house and they thought I was attempting to run over the police officer, but I honestly didn’t want to do that, that’s why I swurved out of the way. When they were interrogating me, asking why I didn’t stop, I told them honestly that I didn’t think the man was a real cop, since I saw no badge or police vehicle (until they came over to my house).
All three of these events have culminated to me not wanting to drive, any more. I haven’t driven my car, or any other car, in almost a year, for fear of driving it. Also, I have a couple speeding tickets, which will stay on my record permanently if I get another one before I turn 23. I am 21 right now.
I am currently taking 4mg of clonazepam and 200mg of seroquel at night, because I have lingering fears about that man in my first story, coming to my house to kill me, so I can never sleep at night, and I had some really bad panic attacks, ending in either losing my lunch, having full body shakes for fifteen minutes at a time while also feeling as if I am going to have a heart attack and I have trouble breathing. Sometimes the panic attacks are so bad that I literally cannot move. It’s like I’m playing dead, except shaking all over. Since taking the medication I have been prescribed, I haven’t had many panic attacks–I usually only have them if I am in an unfamiliar setting with people I don’t trust well. I also have test anxiety, which means I cannot fall asleep the night before a test.
So…having this fear of driving has caused me to come up with a whole round of excuses as to why I “can’t” drive, that I tell friends, who want to hang out and seem a bit perturbed that I don’t have my own form of transportation. Most of my days I live out at home, since I’m terrified to go out by myself in my car, unless I am picked up by a trusting friend or driven by my parents or older sister. It makes me feel as if I have no independence whatsoever. It also doesn’t help that my car looks like hell since I dented the front end badly and never replaced it (don’t have enough money/don’t want to do it/would rather buy a different car), when my foot slipped off the brake pedal at a red light and hit the gas while I was in 1st, causing me to slam the back of the car in front of me.
I think the only way I am going to start driving again is if I get a new car–the old one is haunted with bad memories.
Brittany July 6, 2010, 11:55 am
I have a fear of driving. i always think someone is going to crash into me or i am going to crash into someone else. i did these things and it helped me alot i know have more confidence in my driving thank you!!
Amanda July 6, 2010, 3:24 pm
Hello I am 26 with a family and have let my fear of driving take over our whole life. We have had to miss out on a lot because of my fear. I have never even tried to get my license. But recently I have decided to overcome my driving phobia. I hope to do so by trying anything possible to achieve this. whttp://overcomingmydrivingphobia.blogspot.com/ould love to hear others advice and stories.
Hi. I’m terryfing about the idea of driving. I’m 23 years old and I can’t help feel fear when I’m driving. I don’t know what to do. Really. I don’t know; and the worst part of all of this, is the fact that as long as the days passed, I get myself crasiest about these. I mean I already crash my car against a pole, another car, I also crash my mom’s car…. helppppp I think that I never going to learn.
Hello i have had a fear of driving for years. i dont like free ways bissy roads and bridges. it has came to the point that i have to pull over and go back home. and i will not go on free ways i freak out and i have to get off at the next exit. Iam a Military wife and i have to take my hubby to and from work and i need help with my fear of driving.
I had anxiety attacks while i was driving, and now it has developed into a fear of driving.
iam a new driver just got my licence 3 weeks back, 1. my car always switched off everytime ia m trying to move off from traffic lights, please help 2. i have a fear of driving on the hill especially on traffic, my fear is that my new car will reverse to another car of just switched off. can anyone tell me what iam doing wrong.
I am afraid of driving because I am afraid of causing an accident killing somebody,or face jail time. Just the taught of any of this happening frightens me enough not to even want to try to learn how to drive but my situatuon is now forcing me to drive and now I need to.
i am always scared when i want to drive
elissa cruz July 31, 2010, 11:53 pm
I’m 40 years old, when i was 17 i was learning to drive and everything looks very simple. until a tragedy happened in my family. my older brother was killed(not driving related). one day i was taking my driving lesson as usual, and the person that killed my bro passed rigth in from of me looking at me like if wanted to harm me. that was enough for me to panic and ran away leaving my instructor cluless. years past by, i used to live in new york and i really didn’t need to drive, so that was the perfect excuse not to drive. now i’m living in fl, where i have to have a car, well i had to add that i had a husband that always discouraged me from driving and doing other things,so that contribuited to my fear. i’m not afraid of having a crash or driving on certaing places, i just avoid the idea of having to drive, just to get on the driver sit make me think about the past situation,this has been very frustrating to me. i,m a professional and have to depend on my friends and family to drive me every where…it’s not a good feeling! this is the very first time i talk about this, if someone has a advice it will be appreciated!!
Selene August 2, 2010, 1:50 pm
Elissa, I am a 39 year old woman. I learned how to drive at 37. I was living in other country and I did not have the necessity to drive. But in USA you have to drive.
I had a minor car accident few weeks ago (very minor but it took away all my strenght and confidence while driving).
And I am very affraid of driving. But I have to. I have to work and pick up my daughter from school. I do not have alternative.
Every day I pray, I feel so afraid and helpless. I am thinking in taking some driving classes. Sometimes the relatives can not help you and you need help from a professional.
I do not know if this will help me, I hope so. I recomend you this too. Go to traffic school, find a good instructor.
Buena suerte, amiga.
Betzblue August 17, 2010, 9:09 am
I have “safety zones” that I can drive without any problems ( say 15 miles away from home) but I cannot drive on freeways, or in heavy traffic. I will take back roads and drive an hour getting to my destination instead of dealing with the “panic attacks”. I have been having these for 20+ years. I refuse to take drugs so I stay away from ” professional help”. Many of my friends & family used to say that I was making it up/ no one has panic attacks while driving”. Now I can see that other people do have them too. Thank You.
Mallory August 18, 2010, 10:34 am
hi, i have such a fear of driving that im 24 and have never fully finnished a driving test. i can pass the written part, but when it comes to actually driving a car i can’t do it. and simply chicken out. im so embarrased by this fear and my husband nags me about it almost everyday. i really do want to start driving but my fear is so bad that i jsut cant bring myself to even get on a highway without feeling like im going to be sick. my pulse starts to race and i even become confused on where the gas & break are. how do i overcome this fear… i always think that ppl think im immature for this. but truth is they just dont understand.
Hello, I have been experiencing driving anxiety since the time I got the delivery of my brand new car. Things were almost good during my training days. I assumed that I have mastered driving. I even passed the driving test and was issued licence to drive. But, when I sat for the first time in my car, I almost rammed it because I pushed accelerator for brakes. The scars on my car influenced more fear in me. I have been gathering guts and driving for the last one week and have been stopping in the middle of busy road. Can you imagine the faces of pissed-off drivers. Sweat still tinkles down, with AC in full. I have always feared that someone gonna bang from behind or I may damage someone else’s car. I have got the guts to keep on trying, but patience is what I lack. Please suggest how to build up patience…