Fear of Driving

Being able to drive grants a person a certain level of freedom and can make getting around from A to B easy and effortless. However, a fear of driving can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life, particularly if the person allows the fear to get to the point that they stop driving all together. There also a great deal of people who continue to drive their vehicles but will avoid main roads, highways, tunnels, toll ways, or particular routes where they believe a difficult hurdle may arise, or where escape may be difficult.

Fear of Driving


The vast majority of people who develop a fear of driving have either witnessed a motor vehicle accident (MVA), been in an accident, or have experienced a panic attack whilst driving. In many other cases the person has simply learned to associate driving with some type of upsetting event. This may include a fight with a partner, or your parents yelling at you inside a motor vehicle when you were a child. Most commonly, people either experience the fear of driving as performance anxiety or a fear of having panic attacks whist driving, or a combination of both.

Fear of Panic Attacks

People who experience panic attacks, particularly those experiencing panic disorder, live in fear of recurring panic attacks. Panic attacks can seemingly come out of nowhere and can strike at any time. A person may tell themselves, “What if I have a panic attack whilst driving over that bridge? I could lose control of the car and get into a horrific accident.” Whilst it may seem logical that a panic attack could emerge whilst a person is driving, it is this kind of fearful attitude towards driving that makes having a panic attack more likely. When a person experiences a panic attack, their natural instinct is to flee the situation. The person worries that this may not be possible whilst driving a car, particularly if they are on a busy highway or in a tunnel, for example.

Performance Anxiety

Many people experiencing a fear of driving lack confidence in their driving skills. Perhaps your confidence behind the wheel never developed or perhaps you once had the confidence and have lost confidence over time.

People experiencing driving related performance anxiety also worry about how they are perceived on the road. A person may worry that the person behind them will get irritated, or even give them the middle finger if they don’t turn quickly enough, for example. They might tell themselves that perhaps their car will conk out in the middle of an intersection, resulting in judgement and abuse from other drivers. You might be someone who is constantly checking the rear vision mirror because you are anxiously anticipating an impatient driver to appear behind you at any time. You might even feel compelled to speed up with such a driver behind you or pull over to the side of the road to avoid a potential situation.

Overcoming Your Fear of Driving

Regardless of whether you experience a fear of panic attacks whilst driving, whether your concerns are more related to performance anxiety, or a combination of both, the chief commonality here is fear. Essentially, you believe that something bad will happen in the future whilst driving.

Man Driving Truck


Therapy may include a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and exposure therapy. CBT helps to look at your beliefs, thoughts, and behaviours that are contributing to the maintenance of your fear of driving. ACT will encourage you take action towards achieving your goals, and exposure therapy is geared towards getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, at least for a while. Overcoming your driving related fears can be hard work but is achievable with the right knowledge, support, and dedication towards seeing things through. Why not schedule a private consultation today?

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