Fear of driving, also known as Vehophobia, is hard at any age, but it may become even scarier as you grow older. You might find yourself having panic attacks while you are on the road that you never had previously, and they can be terrifying.
There are many reasons that people develop a phobia for driving that have nothing to do with trauma from previous accidents. I noticed this happening to me, and it’s frustrating because I love jumping in my car and going places.
Previous accidents can spook you
It’s easy to understand why an accident on the road would cause driving anxiety. I’ve had a few minor accidents over the years mostly caused by someone else rear-ending me. And, although I wasn’t hurt, it always took a while before I started feeling comfortable on the road again.
Other negative experiences
Being stuck in the fog, the pouring rain, or getting lost in the dark can certainly cause a panic attack especially if you’re on a long road trip. You may even have dreams about those experiences and fear it can happen again with horrible consequences.
How did we survive call boxes?
Do you freak out if your GPS loses its signal? Even though we grew up before smartphones we’ve come to depend on them while we’re driving. Sometimes I wonder how I survived a tire blowout on the freeway or my car stopping suddenly for some weird electrical reason in the days when you had to walk to a call box to call AAA.
Fear caused by what we see on television
How many movies have you seen where a car drives off the road into a lake and the passengers can’t get out or struggle to swim to the surface? The odds of that happening to you are slim to none but it’s a fear many people have when they drive near water. What if your windows got stuck or you can’t breathe?
After the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, I started sweating whenever I got stuck in traffic under a freeway underpass. I was afraid that a tremor would bring tons of concrete on top of my head.
Speed demons on the freeway
Call me crazy but I prefer driving in traffic because it’s slow-moving. I loved it when the speed limit in California was 55 several decades ago. In Los Angeles we have drivers switching lanes at the last minute, careening through cars, or going from the fast lane straight to the freeway exit. I sometimes tell myself to breathe deeply after that happens.
Age related fear of driving
For a while, I had cataracts growing on my eyes which caused my eyes to be foggy in spots. Fortunately, cataract surgery fixed that and my nearsighted vision as well. But while I was waiting for my surgery, I couldn’t drive at night or even through a tunnel without needing a drink afterward. I would only drive on city streets and avoid the highway like the plague. Even though I see clearly now, I still prefer to drive in the daytime especially long distances.
Sometimes my neck feels stiff when I turn to look if a car is in the next lane, so I’m extra careful. I don’t always trust what I see in my side mirrors.
Another age-related driving issue is having to go to the bathroom more frequently. My roommate is the same age as me and drives for Lyft. She always seeks out the nearest decent bathroom because when ya gotta go, ya gotta go.
How do you deal with your fear of driving?
It can be frustrating when driving anxiety keeps you from going places. A friend of mine just turned 80 and has been driving from state to state with no problem at all. It doesn’t faze her. She can drive day or night. I freak out when I drive across town and prefer to be driven like Miss Daisy. However, that can be scary too if my driver tailgates, smokes a joint in the car, or drives like a bat out of hell.
I’ve found that if I stay 1 car length per 10 miles per hour away from the car in front of me (like they tell you to do in driving school) it eases my anxiety because I know I’ll have time to stop if I’m paying attention. I also drive like a grandma and let faster cars whiz by me. I’m sure they hate me.
Most new cars have built-in navigation devices but mine is on the old side and does not. I bought a car mount for my smartphone that sits on my dashboard, so I don’t have to look down to see the GPS. Obviously, don’t play with your smartphone, put on your lipstick, or drive when sleepy or inebriated.
There are psychologists and even hypnotherapists who can help ease your fear of driving. It’s recommended that you write down all the reasons to conquer your fear and then face each fear one by one. Good luck out there and stay safe.