Fear of driving

Phobias and Driving – The Fear of Driving

Fear can be a good thing. Fear is a natural survival response and it can be a healthy response when it leads us to avoid certain hazardous conditions such as; avoiding dangerous places, being on the lookout for dangerous animals when hiking in the forest, or not swimming in a rapid river where you can easily be swept away.  Driving is one of those situations where a good, rational, healthy fear of a dangerous environment can lead a driver to exercise reasonable caution, obey the traffic laws, and be on the lookout for situations or aggressive drivers that could pose a danger.

However, there are times when rational fear gives way to irrational fears. An irrational fear or phobia, can lead to avoidance of any situation that could possibly put the phobic individual in a position where he or she may encounter their fear. Most of us experience one type of phobia or another to a lesser or greater degree. Fear of snakes, spiders, or heights all have their basis in a good, rational concern for safety but when that fear turns into a phobia it can cause the phobic individual to experience a panic attack and freeze up.

Phobias involving driving take several forms with some overlapping and some combining other, overriding phobias:

  •  Fear of Driving – Some individuals have an overwhelming fear of driving itself. This could be as a result of post traumatic stress after being involved in a collision or just a fear of being involved in a collision. For some, the fear results from a fear of open spaces or crowds (agoraphobia).
  • Fear of Driving Over Bridges – Some individuals have a fear of bridges themselves (gephyrophobia) and, for others, it isn’t the bridge but the height of the bridge (acrophobia) that causes the fear. Some major bridges such as the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel provide replacement drivers to drive over the bridge.
  • Fear of Driving In Mountains – This fear results from a fear of landslides, fear of heights, and fear of losing control of the vehicle on steep grades.

Emotions play a big impact on our driving and, when a driver experiences a fear so great that it can lead to a panic attack the phobia can be extremely dangerous both to the phobic driver and to the other drivers on the road. At this point, the driver needs to consider help in overcoming the phobia by consulting a therapist. Some therapists specialize in overcoming phobias.

Some feel that self help programs work as effectively as counseling. There are books available and some phobics have experienced relief through deep breathing and other relaxation techniques. Analyzing the irrationality of the fear and replacing the imagined catastrophic events with the more typical, realistic results can also help.