How to Overcome Driving Anxiety

How to Overcome Driving Anxiety

In every professional driving school, there is at least one student gripped by an unspoken fear. A fear that sneaks up every time they take the wheel that hampers their ability to enjoy the freedom that driving promises: driving anxiety.

A condition that affects millions globally, driving anxiety can transform the simple act of getting from point A to B into a nerve-wracking experience. It’s essential not only to acknowledge this issue but also to seek ways to overcome it actively.

This comprehensive guide offers insights and practical strategies to help navigate driving anxiety.

Understanding Driving Anxiety

What is driving anxiety, you ask? This anxiety is an excessive fear or worry associated with driving or even the thought of driving. It’s more common than you might think.

A survey by Admiral in 2019 showed that over 39% of drivers admitted to feeling anxious behind the wheel. And that’s an alarming statistic in a world increasingly preoccupied with speed.

Driving anxiety isn’t just about sweaty palms or a racing heart. It can manifest in various ways, including panic attacks, excessive worry about potential accidents, avoidance of certain roads or conditions, or an outright refusal to drive.

These symptoms can severely limit mobility and independence, underlining the importance of understanding and tackling driving anxiety.

Expert Insight into Driving Anxiety

When we get down to the science of it, driving anxiety is related to our body’s natural response to perceived danger—the fight or flight response.

When you’re anxious, your brain signals your body to prepare for potential threats. This reaction is beneficial when faced with a real threat, but when anxiety triggers this response without a real danger, it leads to the symptoms we mentioned earlier.

The world of psychology and behavioral science has delved into this issue. Therapists often note how driving anxiety can be linked to broader anxiety issues or traumatic events, like car accidents.

And driving instructors? They’ve witnessed firsthand how anxiety can inhibit a person’s driving abilities.

Top Techniques for Taming Driving Anxiety

Understanding driving anxiety and its effects is only half the battle. The real victory lies in managing it effectively.

Here are some of the most practical techniques to help you steer clear of driving anxiety:

  1. Harness the Power of Breath: Deep breathing exercises can be powerful tools for managing anxiety. Take the example of Jane, a 25-year-old novice driver. Plagued by panic behind the wheel, she turned to deep breathing exercises suggested by her therapist. A simple routine of inhaling for a count of 4, holding her breath for 7 counts, and exhaling slowly to a count of 8 worked wonders for her. It could do the same for you!
  2. Embrace Positive Visualization and Affirmations: Visualizing yourself as a confident driver cruising down the road can alter your reality. Coupled with affirmations like “I am a safe and confident driver,” the transformative power of positive thinking can reshape your driving experience.
  3. Practice Gradual Exposure: If the mere thought of a highway makes you jitters, start with quieter roads and gradually build your confidence. Start small and notch up victories to help you conquer more significant fears.
  4. Try Defensive Driving Courses: Often underrated, these courses are a goldmine for boosting your confidence. They equip drivers with the knowledge to anticipate potential hazards and react appropriately, thereby reducing anxiety on the road.

Professional Help for Driving Anxiety

While the techniques above are effective, sometimes professional help may be necessary. So, when should you seek it?

If your driving anxiety is causing significant distress, affecting your daily life, or if self-help strategies aren’t helping, it may be time to seek professional assistance.

Professionals such as therapists and specialized driving instructors can offer tools and techniques to manage driving anxiety.

For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. CBT helps by challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and developing personal coping strategies.

Useful Resources and Tools

There are various resources available to help deal with driving anxiety. Apps like Headspace and Calm offer guided meditations and exercises to help manage anxiety. Online support groups and forums can also provide a sense of community and understanding.

Recommended readings such as “Driving Fear Out of the Driver’s Seat” by John Montesi and online courses like “Fear of Driving” by Panic Away can also provide valuable insights and techniques.


Driving anxiety can feel like an insurmountable challenge, but rest assured, you’re not on this journey alone.

By understanding the problem, employing effective strategies, and seeking professional assistance when necessary, you’re already taking significant strides towards overcoming driving anxiety.

Whether it’s through deep breathing exercises, positive affirmations, gradual exposure, defensive driving courses, or professional therapy, there’s a path that’s right for everyone. 

Remember, overcoming driving anxiety is more of a road trip than a sprint. With a little patience, determination, and the right tools at your disposal, you can surely regain your confidence on the road. And that’s the best destination we can think of.

So, buckle up and gear up for a smoother journey. Your road to overcoming driving anxiety begins today. And remember, if you’re looking for professional help, Defensive Driving School is always ready to steer you in the right direction.

Feel free to contact us and discover how our professional driving school can help you conquer your fears and succeed on the road.

5 FAQs

What is driving anxiety?

Driving anxiety refers to fear or apprehension experienced when driving or contemplating the idea of driving. It can lead to emotional distress, physical symptoms, or avoidance behaviors.

What techniques can help manage driving anxiety?

Effective techniques include practicing deep breathing exercises, using positive affirmations, gradually exposing oneself to driving, and taking defensive driving courses. For severe cases, professional therapy might be necessary.

How does gradual exposure help overcome driving anxiety?

Gradual exposure involves slowly facing your driving fears, starting with less anxiety-inducing situations and progressively moving towards more challenging ones. This approach can help build confidence and reduce anxiety over time.

How can defensive driving courses help with driving anxiety?

Defensive driving courses can build confidence by teaching drivers how to anticipate and handle potential road hazards. Understanding these techniques can help reduce fear and anxiety while driving.

What are positive affirmations, and how can they help?

Positive affirmations are encouraging statements that you repeat to yourself, like “I am a safe and confident driver.” They can help reshape negative thinking patterns and reduce driving anxiety.