Getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time can often be a scary experience. It can cause people to panic, increase their stress levels and, in some severe cases, lead to anxiety attacks. Our specialty is helping nervous drivers feel confident behind the wheel, by teaching them the best ways of overcoming driving anxiety.
Table of contents
- Is driving anxiety common?
- Understanding Vehophobia
- Driving anxiety symptoms
- Should you drive with anxiety?
- How to overcome driving anxiety?
If there is anything you feel assured about is that you’re not alone. Millions of people across the UK have a fear of driving, ranging from general nervousness to severe anxiety which could lead to panic attacks.
A recent study found that over 39% of drivers felt scared, apprehensive or not confident behind the wheel of a car.
Making the fear of driving a completely normal feeling to have. But, the great news is, it’s completely manageable. With the right techniques, taking your time and learning with your driving instructor at a pace that helps you feel comfortable, anything is possible.
Remember, we’re all individuals, we all learn differently. You may feel comfortable on the motorway in busy traffic, whereas bay parking might be an issue for you. It’s about understanding where your fear comes from before you can take the steps to overcome them.
Vehophobia (fear of driving or driving phobia) is a form of anxiety that can cause a person to feel uneasy whilst driving. In severe cases, the feeling of panic can be so severe that it can cause a person to become unsafe whilst driving.
In extreme cases, it can cause people to completely freeze in a panic, either leading to the driving instructor having to cancel the lessons or take control of the car.
Vehophobia can happen for a number of reasons:
- Low confidence or self-belief
- A bad experience in the past as a passenger
- Feeling unsafe on the roads (due to the risk of being in danger)
- The feeling of not being in control
Whilst these are the most common causes, there are a variety of triggers that could be specifically related to other mental health conditions.
It’s worth continuing with any treatment and letting your instructor know prior to any lessons if you’re on any medication that could affect your ability to react to situations on the road.
If you feel concerned that you may be suffering from any form of anxiety, then you need to consult with a medical professional immediately. Your health is the most important thing and it’s not safe to put yourself, or others at risk.
Avoid driving any time you feel uncomfortable doing so.
Some of the most common signs of a driving phobia are…
This means you’re thinking things which may interrupt your ability to think clearly. If you’re not sure about what this could be, it’s any thought or image that you feel is unwanted/involuntary. If at any point during your driving lessons this happens, speak to your instructor, take a break and relax.
Probably the most common sign that you’re nervous is sweating. It’s normal to sweat so, unless you are sweating heavily from your hands, underarms or unusual places in your body, I wouldn’t worry. One way to avoid sweating is to wear comfortable clothes and avoid caffeine before a lesson.
Again, another extremely common symptom of feeling anxious whilst you’re in the car. If the thought of driving increases your heart rate, you need to focus on your breathing. Take 5 deep breaths and really pay attention to how your breath feels, this should help keep your mind from becoming distracted.
There are plenty of relaxation techniques available to you. We recommend finding what works best for you and, if you’re still struggling, please see your GP.
As we referenced earlier, you need to tell your driving instructor about any pre-existing illnesses that may impact your driving. In addition, before you have applied for your licence, it’s important that you let the DVLA know.
If you do suffer from Vehophobia (fear of driving), and do not disclose this, you are at risk of being fined up to £1,000. Please keep this in mind!
If your doctor has said that your anxiety will not affect your driving behaviour then, it’s fine to book your driving lessons.
Just like anything else, your confidence and how comfortable you are will influence your nerves. This is rectified through patience, understanding and planning.
Feeling anxious is completely normal and it’s a journey that learner drivers have to work through with their instructor. The most important tips we can give you is to encourage you to talk to someone; whether that’s your family, friends or a professional.
During your driving lessons, it’s down to you to be honest about how you’re feeling. If you would rather practice maneuvers in a car park, then say. It doesn’t matter how many sessions that you have, what’s important is that you take the necessary steps that you’re comfortable with before you get your licence.
Don’t feel afraid about being honest with your instructor, that’s what we’re here for. We want to give you the motivation to try, so that you can experience the freedom of being on the road.
- Speaking to your doctor to make sure that you’re safe
- Telling your instructor of any pre-existing health conditions
- Learning to focus on your breath when you begin to panic
- Research relaxation techniques to practice at home
- Overcome your fears in your time; don’t rush to pass your test
Before you know it, your confidence will be back and you’ll be out on the road!