Jack Dreyer | Monday 3rd June 2019 12:00pm
If you sometimes experience driving anxiety while behind the wheel, you wouldn’t be alone. A survey of British motorists carried out by the Telegraph and Aviva found that 23 per cent of those polled said they occasionally feel anxious behind the wheel!
While having too much confidence as a driver can cause its own problems, lacking self-assurance makes getting from A to B stressful and difficult. What’s more, if it affects your concentration and judgement, driving anxiety can put you and other road users at increased risk.
What is driving anxiety?
Lots of people experience a degree of fear while driving. For some, anxiety is tied to very specific situations, such as suffering a loss of control or driving at high speeds, in difficult weather conditions or at night. Travelling in unfamiliar places can also trigger fear, as can driving alongside big vehicles like lorries or buses.
Other motorists have more generalised anxiety. For these people, any kind of journey can make them feel nervous. A fear of driving is more common among those who’ve recently passed their tests, but it can affect anyone. In some cases, anxiety develops after an accident or near miss, while for other people it arises unexpectedly with no obvious cause.
There are also a range of phobias that can make driving much more stressful. For example, dystychiphobia is a fear of accidents and it tends to make people try to avoid any situations that increase the risk of physical danger. Claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces, can also impact on drivers because it can easily transfer to the prospect of being inside a car. And, while it’s not common, some people are affected by hodophobia, which is a fear of travel.
Can phobias cause driving anxiety?
There are also a range of phobias that can make driving much more stressful. For example, dystychiphobia is a fear of accidents and it tends to make people try to avoid any situations that increase the risk of physical danger.
Claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces, can also impact drivers because it can easily transfer to the prospect of being inside a car. And, while it’s not common, some people are affected by hodophobia, which is a fear of travel.
Campaigns aims to combat driving anxiety
Highlighting the fact that motorists who have recently passed their tests often feel particularly vulnerable, the UK government’s designated road safety campaign THINK! recently launched an awareness-raising initiative aimed at helping new drivers to build their confidence.
The organisation’s Road Whisperer campaign emphasises the point that confidence comes by building up real experience on the roads. It’s based on a series of videos and GIFs that feature a Jeff Bridges-style character complete with southern American drawl who gives new motorists tips to help them overcome the challenges of driving solo. Created in partnership with the marketing agency VMLY&R, the material has been shared online and in cinemas.
Commenting on the topic, road safety minister Jesse Norman said: “Confidence comes with time and practice, so it’s important to keep learning and build up experience to become a better driver.”
Tips to help reduce driving anxiety
Whether you feel nervous because you only recently passed your test, you’ve taken a break from driving, you’ve suffered a bad experience behind the wheel or for any other reason, there are steps you can take that may help you to combat your anxiety and become a better driver as a result.
1. Use green 'P' plates
Green ‘P’ plates are used to show other motorists that you’ve just passed your test and are therefore likely to be more cautious or hesitant. Putting them on your car can help to ensure that other road users behave more courteously towards you, allowing you to feel more relaxed. Bear in mind that you can leave these plates on for as long as you want, so they can still come in handy even if you passed your test a long time ago.
2. Book refresher lessons if you've not driven in a while
If you haven’t driven for a long time, it might be a good idea to book yourself a few refresher lessons. These sessions can remind you how to cope with a variety of potentially stressful driving situations and give you a welcome confidence boost.
3. Make sure your car is safe
Carrying out car safety checks is an essential part of motoring for all drivers. Doing these checks can also help to give you added peace of mind when you climb into the driver’s seat.
For example, it’s important to make sure that your vehicle’s tyres are up to scratch. Legally, car tyres in the UK must have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm - and safety experts generally recommend a depth of 3mm or more. Having tyres with a good level of tread will help you to keep control of your car by minimising your stopping distances and cutting the risk of skidding or aquaplaning. Make sure you keep your tyres pumped up to the correct pressure too, and watch out for signs of damage like cracks in the sidewalls. If the tread is getting low or you spot any damage, it’s time to get replacement tyres.
Not being able to see clearly through your windscreen while driving can be terrifying. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, make sure you keep your windscreen wipers in good condition and replace them when necessary. Ensure your windscreen washer fluid levels are topped up at all times too.
For a full list of checks you can do at home to reduce driving anxiety, why not check out our pre-mot checklist.
4. Allow yourself to be cautious
As long as you stick to the rules of the road, there is nothing wrong with being an anxious driver. The presence of passengers in your car or other road users around you might make you feel under pressure to drive in certain ways (for example to go faster), but it’s important to stick to what you feel comfortable with.
Many drivers experience anxiety, and this isn’t something you should feel ashamed or embarrassed about. Whether it’s taking refresher lessons or planning easy routes to build your confidence up, there are a variety of things you can do to overcome your nerves.
Many people experience driving anxiety, and this isn’t something you should feel ashamed or embarrassed about. Whether it’s taking refresher lessons or planning easy routes to build your confidence up, there are a variety of things you can do to overcome your nerves.
For more tips to beat driving anxiety, head over to another of our blogs here. Or, find out how to build your confidence behind the wheel here.
Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.
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