Fear Factor: Why Am I Scared of Driving?

Driving can be a gratifying and completely natural experience for many. However, there are some people who don't enjoy it and might even be afraid of driving. 
Vehophobia is the fear that some people experience when sitting behind a steering wheel of a car. It can occur in different situations or conditions and one of its common characteristics is a paralyzing fear that stops them from using the vehicle. 

Why are people scared of driving?

The fears of driving that some people might experience are diverse. In some cases, people fear causing an accident or misusing the gears. In other cases, the problem comes from where they are driving (the highway, roads, big avenues).

There are also those who are scared of driving at night or at high speeds. Vehophobia has three dimensions:

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The cognitive dimension relates to thoughts about accidents, losing control, fear of dying or causing other people to die.

Emotional or physiological

People who fear driving experience anxiety, muscle tension, insecurity, nausea and excessive sweating. They might also have blurry vision, quickened heart rate, diarrhea or trembling in hands and legs.


People with vehophobia avoid driving or drive only under special circumstances such as only driving when with someone, on certain roads, without exceeding the minimal speed, during the day, on empty roads, etc.

The grade of fear that the driver experiences can vary according to the limitations or difficulties that the phobia causes as well as the level of discomfort that the person may feel.

Some can’t even climb into the driver’s seat. Others prefer letting someone else drive, walking or taking a taxi. There are also those who don’t mind taking twice as long to reach their destination by taking a quieter route.

This fear can interfere with everyday life. From rejecting job offers that require driving, spending a lot of money on public transportation, refusing to help someone in an emergency situation to even not being able to enjoy a weekend escape.

Vehophobia crushes self-esteem because it makes the person feel inferior, frustrated and incompetent.

The fear of driving more often affects drivers with little experience (less than 2 years) and in a lower number of cases, experienced drivers as well. There are also more cases in women around their 30s. Some of the main causes of this fear are the following:

  • Suffering an accident (or simply being in one).
  • Learning based on fear or lack of confidence in abilities.
  • Anxiety or stress from problems other than driving (work, family problems, etc.).

Can you overcome the fear of driving?

If, for whatever reason, you can’t drive your vehicle or any other because just thinking about getting in a car terrifies you, here are some words of advice that can help you:

1. Create a relaxing atomosphere

There are some friends or family members that can make you more nervous if you bring them along. You could tell them to sit in the back or ask them directly not to come with you.

Put comfortable clothes on to avoid feeling pressure in any part of your body. Put on some relaxing music and hang up a nice car freshener.

2. Practice abdominal breathing

When you feel like you’re not in control of a situation and you’re at the point of suffering a panic attack, the first thing you should do is opt for abdominal breathing.

Let the air enter through your nose and continue deeper into your lungs. Your stomach should expand as much as it can. After, slowly exhale to relax your body. Repeat several times.

3. Use positive affirmations

All of those sentences or words that allow you to build your confidence and self-esteem are welcome if you’re scared of driving. For example, you could try saying the following in a loud voice:

  • I’m driving carefully and I’m within the speed limit.
  • I know that I am an alert and prepared driver. 
  • I’m driving in the right lane to feel safer.
  • I planned out this drive, I know where I’m going and I’m prepared.

4. Face your fears

The best way to control your driving fear is by driving. Start small, at light traffic hours, on quiet roads and at a very low speed. Once you gain more confidence in yourself, your fear will disappear.

Exposure therapy is one of the most effective ways to overcome fear. If you don’t do anything to overcome it, it’ll get bigger and become uncontrollable.

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5. Take small steps

If you’re scared of driving, you won’t be able to use the car for long distances at night till morning. In light of that, you should complete certain steps or levels until you feel ready. Start by holding the keys for a few minutes, then sit in the car with the engine off.

Afterwards, drive down just one street and go around the block. Make your way towards a main street that has a traffic light and use the right lane of the highway until the first exit, then switch to the next lane, etc.

6. Ask for help

There are many people around you that give you the support that you need to let go of your fear of driving. You can ask them to come with you in your first outings, or at least to listen to your fears and offer an opinion.

Sometimes, it’s only a matter of talking about the problem and feelings that driving causes that can start you on the path to overcoming.

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