Fear of Driving - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 01-04-2011, 05:08 PM - Thread Starter
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I have an intense fear of driving. I will avoid driving as much as I can, but I will relent when I need something from the store, and even then I will only go to the nearest stores. If we need something from a store that's more than a few miles away I simply will not go. If I don't have an exact idea of how to get somewhere I will not go. Very rarely will I drive with my kids in the car, and if my husband is going, too, he will ALWAYS drive.


I've always had this fear. I didn't even get my license until last year b/c I was so afraid of driving. I don't remember being in any major accidents (just bumped a couple times when I was a passenger).


To make matters worse I live near Atlanta, one of the worst places to drive in the country.


I can't help but panic when thinking about driving. I'll go on autopilot when behind the wheel, but once I'm done I end up almost crying out of relief that it's over. This can't be normal.


I don't get road rage, but I do end up freaking out at how many people don't follow the rules of the road. So few people signal here I actually take notice and in my head I congratulate people for properly signalling. Then on the next turn they don't signal and I end up grumbling to myself. Those are the people that could cause a car accident and potentially kill me or my family.


I purchased tickets for a concert in the city this weekend. I bought two tickets (front row) just so I could give one ticket to a friend in exchange for her driving. I'm afraid my friend will bail at the last minute and even though I've been wanting to go to a concert like this for at least 16 years, I'd likely not go if I don't have a ride.


I'm setting up doctors appointments tomorrow, and rather than go during a weekday, I'm going to schedule for the weekend so my husband can drive us. I rationalise by figuring my husband has to have an appointment, too, so I'll just schedule all our family doctor appointments together, and I'll be under anesthesia during the other appointment. I still can't help but feel that my fear of driving is running my life, though.


To top it all off, I made a local friend and we went out a few times with her driving. I found she's a HORRIBLE driver, and I discovered she was trying to drive under the influence the last time we went out (caught her in her kitchen mixing vodka & juice in her water bottle). I ended up yelling at her, and she stashed it away. I think she took something at the club, early in the night, and I actually put off going home until the place was closing to make sure she was okay to get behind the wheel because I was so afraid to drive. My friend ended up getting stopped at a safety check point (thankfully she was sober), and found out her license was suspended just a few days before. The cop said she couldn't drive but because I had my license I could drive the car home. I refused, simply stating I didn't know how to drive a stick shift. After I refused to drive the police officer did another check on my friend's car and discovered my friend didn't have any insurance. The car ended up getting impounded, my friend couldn't afford to get the car out so she lost it, and I think in a way she blames me for it, since the cop would have let us go without running the additional check if I had just agreed to drive. So, I lost a friendship because I refused to drive. I'm not really mourning that friendship because I lost all respect for her when she tried to drink & drive. But, the fact that she was so willing to have a few drinks and get behind the wheel scares me off of driving even more.


I need to set up a plan. I need to start using our navigation system for directions. I need to venture out more.


Is there anybody else here who has a fear of driving? Has anybody here successfully overcome it?

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#2 of 24 Old 01-04-2011, 09:28 PM
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I have an idea of where you're coming from. I was afraid someone would crash into me or that I'd drive over the line into a semi (serious emotional issues at the time) or that a light would suddenly change color and I wouldn't stop in time at an intersection. I marveled that anyone would let their child ride with me because of the inner turmoil I often felt.


I drove because I had to (single mom). When my brother's granddaughter died, I told him I wouldn't be going because my car wasn't good enough to make it. Then I got an intense feeling that he really needed me there (the death was a suicide) and a friend let me borrow her car. My brother lived in a city and I was definitely white-knuckled going through that last 1 1/2 hours of driving.


The only thing that helped me do better was doing it. I didn't jump into driving in heavy traffic (the funeral was an emergency). I drove on less traveled roads and can now drive on roads that used to terrify me. I still haven't gotten to the point of driving in an area as congested as you live in. Probably because I lived in the country or in very small towns and rarely went to a city.


Anyway, my suggestion would be to start in areas where there is very little traffic and gradually work up to more and more traffic. It can be scary, but my experience is that you eventually get used to it.

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#3 of 24 Old 01-05-2011, 03:19 AM
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I used to be afraid of driving and now I'm training to be a school bus driver! It is possible to overcome your fear!


If being in an accident is what scares you the most, does it comfort you at all to know that the majority of people are never ever in a major accident? Many people are never in a accident at all. Maybe you could take a course on defensive driving and that you would make you feel better about other drivers not doing what they are supposed to. Also learn some stress and tension relief such as deep breathing, positive self talk, a calming CD, ect. that you can do behind the wheel.


I found that the worst thing to do for a fear of driving is to feed into it. The less you drive, the bigger your fear will grow. Make yourself start small, drive short distances in familiar places, and reward yourself- like drive to the store to buy yourself a treat.


Good luck!

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#4 of 24 Old 01-05-2011, 08:45 AM
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I don't have any great words of wisdom, but I just wanted to let you know you're not alone. My father died in a car accident and ever since I've also had an intense fear of driving. I took drivers ed. as a teen and have gotten my learners permit several times, but I just can't bring myself to get a license. I've had full blown panic attacks when I've attempted to practice driving, and I get so freaked out I don't even trust myself to drive safely.


I grew up in a major city and took public transportation everywhere. Not having a license really wasn't a huge deal. Now that we've moved to a more rural area, it's become a problem to get around. My husband drives though, and we do most of our major shopping errands done on the weekends when he's home. 


It's become a point of shame and embarrassment for me. It seems so unusual for an adult to not drive that it makes me feel like I'm inadequate somehow. I hate that I have this fear. I also hate having to depend on other people to get around when I'm otherwise quite an independent person. 


It's been suggested to me to see a therapist that specializes in phobias and even medication to help me calm when driving. 


Anyhow, hugs to you mama, I know it's tough.


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#5 of 24 Old 01-05-2011, 09:03 AM
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I was just curious, is your fear strictly based on YOU driving, or are you anxious with other people driving as well?


If it's just YOU driving, is it possible that you have some good reason for it? Such as visual-spatial processing lag, or poor/no depth perception? If that's the case, then no wonder you're anxious, and no wonder you curse (lol) anyone who doesn't follow the "rules of the road" such as signalling, because the signals help you so much. For most people, signals are helpful but not critical; they can usually discern what a car is going to do, and easily enough that it doesn't require much processing.


My DH is relaxed about driving in the daylight but tense at night. Clearly there is some difference for him, even if he's not aware of any night blindness or anything. He will be amazed at how fast people drive at night and so on, because it's just not so easy for him. For the record, I no longer drive because of progressive vision loss. My father has poor depth perception and tended to overcompensate/overreact - such as someone changing into his lane well ahead of him might cause him to brake even if the distance and speed involved was perfectly adequate. You can see how all these issues can turn driving from a no-big-deal task that doesn't even require all of your attention, to one where you're pouring 100% of your attention into it and sweating bullets (and utterly exhausted at the end).


As for how to solve... dunno. If any of the vision issues ring a bell, consider seeing an opthamologist.


Look into rideshare programs in your area. Some communities offer ride services for elderly, disabled and/or low income people, and might be happy to help you out as well (especially if your problem was framed as a disability). Of course public transit might also be an option.


Also, how much would a cab be if you used one rarely? If you have your own car now, what if you sold it and had savings from not making payments, no insurance, no gas, no maintenance. I know cabs are pricey but if you have a round trip once a week, that could very well be cheaper than maintaining an automobile - not to mention a great deal more relaxing!


I hope you can figure out something that works for you. Personally, I don't think there is any shame in not being a driver, if that's how it shakes out. If you feel you have a "fear" that you can "get over" (and not a physical limitation that naturally causing your fear) that's one thing, I'd encourage you to work through it to gain more self-sufficiency. But otherwise, there's nothing wrong with not driving.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#6 of 24 Old 01-05-2011, 09:47 AM
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I had a severe driving phobia, but I overcame it! orngbiggrin.gif

I was very much like you, only worse. My phobia started as just nerves but kept getting worse, to the point where I refused to even approach the car on the driver's side. I had panic attacks just thinking about driving. I went hungry because I wouldn't drive to the grocery store. It was terrible, and I'm embarrassed to admit it went that far. greensad.gif

I tried so many things to overcome it: talk therapy, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, etc. None of them worked. Finally out of desperation I went to a hypnotherapist, and THAT was the turning point. It wasn't a "quick fix" but it was certainly a miracle, as 2 months later I drove 9 hours from OH to NC! Now I'm am 100% phobia-free! orngbiggrin.gif

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#7 of 24 Old 01-05-2011, 10:03 AM - Thread Starter
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I don't have any vision problems, however I have discovered wearing sunglasses helps with night vision (go figure). I can sometimes anticipate what other drivers do, but seriously, sometimes they just jerk the wheel to get in the lane in front of me and it scares me half to death. It's like every time I go out I can pinpoint a moment where if I didn't anticipate others' bad driving, I would've wrecked. It is tiring.


Oddly enough, the music that relaxes me the most behind the wheel is loud rock. I have the same 5 songs I listen to whenever I go to the store. I'm hoping that by listening to it on my regular path, once I venture outside of my zone, the music will continue to keep me calm. But, I should probably start listening to more than the same 5 songs because I'll get sick of them playing on repeat for an hour.


I am still anxious when others drive, but not as much as when I'm driving. I'm rather comfortable with my husband driving, but I find myself grabbing the "Oh, shoot!" bar when most other people are driving. I'm not jumpy about it and I'm not a backseat driver. I give myself a mental Xanax before we go, and I tend to joke around and laugh to relieve my tension. Sometimes I end up rambling to the driver just to distract myself. Nobody has really caught on to this phobia when I was riding with them, save for the REALLY bad drivers. There are few people I consider good drivers who I can relax with.


I think my big roadblock is we moved here just a few months after I got my license. I drove the entire way down here, almost 18 hours straight through. When we arrived in our new city I witnessed 3 accidents before we even arrived at our new home! I was white knuckling it the entire way. I don't know my way around the city yet, and I'm so afraid I'm going to get lost. Last month I drove myself to the library and I decided to take the back roads. I took a wrong turn, due to feeling pressured by another more aggressive driver. I ended up finding my way home of course, but for a moment there I was afraid I'd end up on a 2 hour journey. Usually I'm able to figure out north, south, east and west, but since moving here I feel like I'm caught under an avalanche, unable to tell up from down.


Accidents are a real fear of mine. Like I said, I've never been in a major accident, but I know several people who have.

  • My uncle got into an accident while driving and his best friend was ejected from the car & killed
  • My brother was a passenger in a car that spun out and another car hit them, killing a child passenger in the other car
  • My father accidentally hit a kid that ran out in the road right in front  of him, paralyzing the child
  • My BIL got into a one car accident while driving, and his best friend lost his arm
  • My best friend's dad got into an accident and killed the couple in the other car (turned out they were good friends of his). He spent several years in jail (he was over the legal limit)


For awhile there  it seemed all my friends had bad luck driving after hanging out with me. Two friends crashed their cars just a block away from dropping me off (weather related accidents). Another friend hit a deer TWICE after heading home from my place (they live out in the middle of nowhere).


Defensive driving courses seem like a good idea. I also think I need to get out more and learn the area.


Selling the van is not an option. DH has a half hour commute to work. None of his coworkers live in this area. They all live near the office because commuting can be difficult. Luckily we live in an area where DH is going against the traffic. Everybody else is heading into Atlanta for work while my DH is heading away from Atlanta.

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#8 of 24 Old 01-07-2011, 05:53 PM
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I too have a fear of driving, with no apparent reason. I drove just enough to get my full licence (at 25) and haven't driven since. I'm now 31. Unfortunately I live in a place where it's pretty easy to take public transit, which just enables my avoidance of driving. sigh. I don't know what to do about it, but it's on my 5 year plan to get a car and at least become a neighbourhood driver. Buying a car is a problem though because I'm too scared to test drive it. It is also a source or shame for me and makes me feel seriously inadequate as a grown up. I've considered hypnotherapy and it's good to hear that someone on this forum has had success with it. 

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#9 of 24 Old 01-09-2011, 01:00 PM
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I used to have an intense fear of driving. Even after I got my license I would still ask dh to drive me places. It would annoy the heck out of him. A lot of times he would refuse so I had no choice but to drive. I was tense and anxious the whole time. I would get mad at him but now I think his refusing to "enable" me is what led my fear of driving to diminish. After a while (maybe 2 years) I just naturally became more relaxed behind the wheel. Now I don't even think about it.


However, now I struggle with my fear of driving on the freeway. I live in Los Angeles County and I feel there's so much that the kids and I are missing out on because of my fear of driving on the freeway. (L.A. Zoo, Museums, Observatory, Science Center). The high speed just freaks me out though. I feel like there's a much bigger chance of being seriously injured/killed when driving on the freeway and I don't want to take that chance with my two little ones in the car.

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#10 of 24 Old 01-11-2011, 09:44 AM
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I was afraid to drive when I was young. Then I felt ok about driving in the suburbs but I was totally freaked out about driving in the city( all those one way streets made me nervous about getting lost). But i have been forced to do so much driving (school, work, etc) that I got used to it.


I know what you mean abut trusting other drivers. I keep my eye on everyone around me waiting for someone to do something wrong. I am pretty good about anticipating what other drivers might do. I particularly dont trust other drivers in bad weather condtions.


You should practice driving on slow, non busy streets and then work up to busier, faster streets. You can do it! :)

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#11 of 24 Old 02-13-2011, 12:57 PM
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I'm afraid of driving, too. I was in a fairly bad car accident (my fault) while I previously had my learner's permit (a decade ago), and haven't managed to get back on the horse since. But even before that, I wasn't particularly excited about it - I didn't get my learner's permit until I was 21.


Now I'm at a point where I *really* need a license - I'll probably take the written test sometime this month. Up until now, we've lived in places with good public transportation and very bikeable, and I've been quite able to get by without it. Now we live in the middle of nowhere. Biking is not impossible, but certainly not as good an option as it was, especially when the weather is less than perfect (and especially not with a baby). I never get out of the house, and I'm eliminating many job opportunities within my field (either because they're too far, or require driving for home visits).


Looking at it realistically - I did fine with driving up until the accident, and the accident occurred at a time when I knew I was pushing my limits. Now I know that's a bad idea. I've been biking in traffic for years without incident, and that's more dangerous than driving.


It's still nerve-wracking, especially when I think about driving with the kids. Luckily, we live in an area where I can do 90% of my driving-with-kids on quiet back roads until I get more sure of myself.



I do wonder some about visual processing problems, as a previous poster mentioned - I do feel I have some difficulty with distance perception and judging what others are going to do. On the bike, I tend to err on the side of extreme caution.

DS born 6/03, DD1 born 9/06, DD2 born 10/10, DD3 born 4/14.
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#12 of 24 Old 02-13-2011, 06:33 PM
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Consider taking a really thourough defensive driving course. Probably not cheap, but it is well worth it not to feel limited and afraid of something necessary.


My strategy, when I find I'm afraid of something, is to learn to do something even more difficult. As a teenager, I didn't like driving until my father bought a 60ft sailboat - after a summer of sailing, the car was no longer a problem (it has brakes! it doesn't drift sideways! it doesn't weigh 30tons!). To get over a fear of being trapped underwater, I took scuba classes, and the welding classes did wonders for my dislike of electrical sparks and open fires :-).

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#13 of 24 Old 02-16-2011, 06:49 PM
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Six years ago I had a car accident that totaled the car.  I was ok, but if things had have been just a bit different I could have been badly injured or killed (I spun into the on-coming traffic lane, but luckily no one was going the other way).  Since then I have been a nervous driver, especially in the winter (the accident occurred because I slid out on black ice).  I now no longer feel comfortable driving on freeways, or on unknown roads at night or in rainy weather (and forget snowy weather!!!).  I'm ok driving places I know in my city, though I'm not crazy about driving at night.  Since reading a post upthread I'm seriously wondering about my night vision. 


I'm ok with being a passenger if dh is the driver, though I am terrified of being in the car on the freeway if it's snowing or foggy or raining hard (and it's much worse at night).  I've also started feeling nervous watching shows or movies where there's a scene with someone driving.  Like I imagine that person is driving me around and I don't trust them... or something...


Anyway, OP I hear ya.  And I think I need to follow the advice upthread to force myself to drive more to help get over the phobia.  If I had any extra money at all I'd look into hypnotherapy.

Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010

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#14 of 24 Old 02-16-2011, 07:28 PM
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I struggle with this as well and it really does make you feel inadequate as an adult. Heck my 19yo son drives and has his own car. I didn't learn to drive though until I was 30, I grew up in Chicago and lived there until 30 so in some ways I come to this late in the game. I learned how to drive, I get it but doing in regularly...nope. I freak out, panic attacks, etc. When I first moved to a more rural area it wasn't too bad but now that I have made friends, have a bust job, etc, not driving is becoming harder and harder. I am seriously considering hypnosis to get over this once and for all.

Mothering since 1992...its one of the many hats I wear.
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#15 of 24 Old 02-17-2011, 05:14 PM
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I too, struggled with my fear of driving for a really long time. I literally (I'm 26) didn't drive until maybe a year ago? I'd done little trips here and there but always felt too nervous to really enjoy driving, and I was equally tense as a passenger. The type to constantly point out any puddle, brake light, or swerve to the driver which can be you know either helpful or really, really annoying. Luckily I spent a lot of time happily being driven by friends or taking trains, subways and busses to where I needed to be. When we had DD and moved to the "country" I still didn't drive, and it started to get annoying. We are home bodies, but I do like to be able to get to play dates and the market without depending on someone -- when I hired a college girl to drop DD and I off at a story time I knew it was time to buck up. 


I started off with minimal to no highway driving, but I find that driving in around town can be way more stressful! Sudden stops, people suddenly breaking so they don't miss their turn into some shopping plaza. It's like you constantly have to pay attention..I started to actually enjoy windy country roads, and highways. I practiced my driving, and eventually we moved right outside NYC which is a whole different driving experience. EVERYONE is in a rush, EVERYONE drives like a jerk, and it can be stressful but mostly I've learned to anticipate others moves and be on my toes. I literally (this is sick I know) sit and read about accidents/watch videos and plan what I would do in that situation. I know that one can't plan perfectly for emergencies, but it gives me peace of mind. I also avoid driving in pouring rain, ANY sort of winter storm, or during times when traffic is going to be most intense. That helps I think : ) 

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#16 of 24 Old 02-17-2011, 06:47 PM
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I'm also terrified of driving and haven't overcome that fear yet. I'm 27, have had a learner's permit 4 times but never even gotten close to taking the road test for my license. I grew up in a very rural area so I can't even use the excuse of being afraid to drive in the city.. DH HATES that I don't drive and it's a source of tension in our relationship. Right now, the problem is that DH has a manual  and I feel like attempting learning to drive on that would be a waste of time because if I can't learn in an automatic in Amish country, how can I in a moderate sized city on a stick shift? We have no money to get a different car and DH's car is reliable and paid off but has no trade in value because it's older model.  I kick myself every time I see a job opening that I can't apply to because a license is required, but I also really can't see myself driving because I'm so scared...I'm also a bit of a nervous passenger. I made more progress than I have before with my last permit and was actually a little excited to get my license but then the car that was given to me to learn on needed more work than it was worth. So I'm basically in limbo with it for now. There is a decent bus system in my city but when I get a job, it will probably involve 1-1.5 hour bus commute both ways and now that I have an infant, those are going to be precious hours.


But I'm really happy to read that there are a lot of other women with these issues and I feel very inspired by those of you who have got a license. Hopefully once things get better here moneywise I can give it another go.

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#17 of 24 Old 02-21-2011, 03:19 PM
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I can relate to your fear of driving and I too live in Atlanta. When I moved here 14 years ago, I seriously did not leave the midtown area at all, for about 5 whole years!

 And I was a very experienced driver even then and in fact drove myself across the country in a 17 foot moving van towing my car! But,  I refused to get on the interstate in Atlanta for years, there was just soo much traffic and people driving crazy and I was always getting lost, sometimes ending up in some random parking lot crying my eyes out in frustration. And there are parts of ATL you just don't want to get lost in!   I think your fear of driving  is totally valid and especially being a new driver...eh gads..Atlanta is not the place I would want to learn to drive. Not only is the traffic horrible but trying to figure out where things are can get pretty confusing since the roads are all convoluted and go every which way. Grid? Doesn't exist in Atlanta. Just gridlock. ;) 


But for me the  majority of the  fear did abate, it took a number of years and a freelance job doing courier deliveries all over the metro area, but I feel pretty competent on the road now, but unfortunately Atlanta traffic has only gotten worse along with it's drivers.  I really feel for you.

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#18 of 24 Old 02-21-2011, 10:23 PM
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I can relate - I feel panicky when driving on the freeway in bad weather. I am terrified of hydroplaning and feel really uncomfortable if I can't see far ahead. Unfortunately I have to drive on the freeway daily and I live in Seattle. Most of the time the traffic is slow so I can go at a comfortable speed, but when the freeway is moving fast and the rain is heavy I'm that annoying person in the right lane going 15 miles under the speed limit. eyesroll.gif
I recently had to go 70 miles in a storm. I was white knuckled and tense the whole time, especially when the rain got so hard I couldn't see. I felt that going 20 mph was too fast.

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#19 of 24 Old 04-11-2011, 12:46 PM
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I have an intense fear of driving, also.  I will only drive if it is driving to the local grocery store.  Also I, at times, have had to drive my husband home from medical procedures.  I was so scared when I did it.  I am thinking about seeing a phycotherapist or counselor who can help me.  Have you had any luck finding help?  I also have a fear of riding in a car when someone else is driving, especially on the freeway.  I would like to hear back from you.  I need a friend with a fear like mine so we can together try to beat this.  Dorothy

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#20 of 24 Old 04-11-2011, 01:12 PM
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I have an intense fear of driving and it's only gotten worse-- I will not drive faster than 40 mph and won't drive more than 15 miles from home.  I refuse to go on highways.  I don't get road rage either but if "something goes wrong" I panic.  I have a fear of crowded parking lots and will not go anywhere that has a crowded parking situation.  I also cannot go on public transportation especially planes.  I wish I had advice for you but I can only commiserate.

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#21 of 24 Old 04-11-2011, 03:00 PM
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I've had a driving phobia since I first got behind the wheel at 15. It's taken me a lot of baby steps to be able to drive and I still don't do highways or go downtown.


What helps me:


If there is a grocery store that you already drive to comfortably, find another business that is in close proximity and make it your goal to drive there too.

Make sure you know where you are going ahead of time. For me, this means I look stuff up on Google Maps and if I'm particularly nervous, I'll ask DH to show me the easiest way to drive there and we do a test run.

Get a GPS! I don't use mine all of the time but it's nice to know it's there so I can't really get lost.

Keep at it. Keep trying to add new places or areas to drive to. It's taken me almost 5 years to be able to drive to the dang mall but I finally did it.

Know thy back roads and pick times of the day to drive when traffic isn't so heavy.



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#22 of 24 Old 04-11-2011, 06:59 PM - Thread Starter
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#23 of 24 Old 04-11-2011, 07:07 PM
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Go you!!! That's a wonderful start.


I'm sorry you had a panic attack, but I think it's reasonable not to drive at night when you are affected by glare and are nervous.


I don't have a driving phobia, but every time I go a longish period without driving (like 2 weeks) I get nervous and anxious about getting behind the wheel. I used to get nervous getting on the freeway after a while only driving on city streets, but a 50minute one way commute got me past that. So definitely get driving in regularly.

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#24 of 24 Old 04-15-2011, 01:59 PM
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I used to be a confident driver, but then lived abroad for 6 years without driving.  Since moving back and starting to drive again (with kids in the back now!) I'm a lot more nervous.  A lot of what contributed to my nervousness was not being confident about where I was going.  I'd sit at home and try to memorise a map route for ages before driving somewhere because I'm not familiar with the city we're living in.  What helped me immensely was getting a sat-nav system.  It makes me feel much more confident that I can just focus on the road and driving and not always be looking out for my turning or trying to remember the next junction.  And if I happen to go wrong it can put me back on track easily enough.  Might be worth trying.  (((hugs)))


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