Do You Have Driving Anxiety?

April 27, 2010 Aimee White

My driving anxiety felt horrible after one speeding ticket and a potential dead deer. But I finally got through driving anxiety and made it home in one piece.

On Saturday, I went on a road trip. I drove all by myself to Moab and back in one day. That's about 9 hours on different highways, freeways, state routes, whatever you call them. Big multiple lane roads moving at very fast speeds. For most people, this is nothing special, but for someone who gets anxious and has fears associated with driving, its a huge accomplishment. One speeding ticket and one potential dead deer later, I rolled into my garage at 10:30 at night ready for bed.

Driving Anxiety

I am generally okay when driving around in my comfort zone, but I do not like driving somewhere I have never been before. I especially don't like driving with other people in the car with me. I used to be really scared on the freeways, but a daily 2 hour commute for a couple years has helped me to overcome it. That said, I am okay on freeways that I am familiar with. Once I start having to merge onto other unfamiliar freeways, things get tense for me.

The trip was to visit an old friend and take pictures of her newborn baby. I had a GPS telling me exactly where I needed to go so that took a lot of the fear of the unknown out of the equation. I was enjoying my tunes and making progress. I like to listen to music when I drive. It helps to calm my nerves. Then I got pulled over. Argh! I had been trying so hard not to speed the entire time. But the road slowed as I drove through a small town and I got careless. That put me in a bad mood. After that, the only music that was helping me was anything really mellow.

I made it to Moab and had a great photoshoot. It was so nice to visit with my friend and it made me glad that I didn't back out or cancel at the last minute.

On the trip back, I stayed in the slow lane and set my cruise control to the exact speed limit posted. I wasn't taking any chances. As dusk hit, I noticed several "Warning: Deer Crossing" signs. Sure enough, a deer jumped onto the road right in front of my car. I slammed on my brakes, but still managed to take the deer out by his back legs with the driver side of the car. The deer was down for a minute or so, got up, stumbled, fell, and eventually jumped off the other side of the road. I had pulled over and was shaking. I didn't know what to do at that point.

The sky got really dark and driving out in the desert, there was hardly any light anywhere. I was really jumpy. Anything that looked out of the ordinary, I was sure was another deer. I was thinking what else could happen on this trip? Only to see a "Warning: Falling Rocks" sign.

I was done with driving. I just wanted to get get home. I wanted to get pulled over, so I could ask the cop for an escort home. I was really scared that I was losing all control.

I eventually made it home all in one piece. In the future, I don't think I will take on such big road trips all alone. Having a friend there to support me would have been really nice.

Have you had any scares while driving?

APA Reference
White, A. (2010, April 27). Do You Have Driving Anxiety?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Aimee White

Sara Mackh
July, 19 2010 at 2:09 am

I don't come here often - I just stumbled onto this page after typing "driving anxiety" into google because my anxiety has been becoming nearly unmanageable. I can definitely relate to Pamela's comment - I have also had quite a bit of old childhood emotional pain re-emerging lately. Not really sure why, but it is.
Anyway, I live in the Chicago area, where it seems as though every other driver that ends up behind me begins tailgating (or if they're not officially tailgating, they are still too close for comfort. I feel as though I'm the only person in the world who observes that "two-second rule" while driving behind someone). I've tried finding different, less busy routes to my job (a 30-minute commute), but it's all the same. It's almost as though all my childhood emotional pain comes rushing back when someone is tailgating. Like the person behind me is trying to intimidate and bully me into doing what they want, rather than just leaving me alone.
I get into a panicky state nearly every time I drive to and from work. It's bad enough that my job gives me panic attacks, then I have to experience them on the road too. Fortunately I'm quitting my job in a month (going back to school), but that still feels like an eternity from now, especially when I am panicking.

Pamela Elliott
May, 4 2010 at 3:23 am

This is very interesting hearing your stories. I never experienced panic attacks at all until some emotional pain from some past traumatic experiences began to reemerge. Then I suddenly began having trouble breathing, my concentration got fragmented, and I would get extremely troubled whenever someone would tailgate me in my car.
I didn't realize this to be panic attacks for months until they kept getting worse and I started researching about it. I found it increasingly difficult to find the motivation to go anywhere. In Texas, it seems like you don't take a drive of any length without someone tailgating you! I was scared to drive, especially with my kids in the car, for fear of having an accident. The other thing was that I had trouble speaking kindly or respectfully to them in the car if they were being noisy or whiny because I felt so panicky.
Medication has really helped, but not completely. It sounds like you both were able to press through your panic. That's awesome.
This may sound a little random, but the panic attacks began to gradually disappear as I started having someone pray with me about the intense emotions and pain from the past. They immediately began to disappear. I am still working through this, so I'm not totally free from the attacks. At times, they come back when some new aspect of a memory pops up. Not sure why driving is the place this all manifests itself, but it's really tough to get by in America without a car. Not sure if there is some memory behind your's possible.
If you want to explore this prayer method, I recommend it. There is a website that explains how it works, but it's mostly just asking God to lead you back to the memory that's causing all that fear or anger or anxiety, and waiting for Him to show you the truth about that memory.
Sorry to hear other people struggle with anxiety in the car. It feels really scary whenever I have panic attacks while driving.

Pamela Elliott
May, 4 2010 at 3:00 am

This is very interesting. Panic in the car has felt scary and humiliating for me, as I've thought things like, "Why can't I get a grip on myself?!" I didn't have trouble with panic attacks until the past few years. Mine seems to be stemming from some re-emerging emotional pain related to some traumatic experiences from childhood that I hadn't healed from (denial instead). Ever since these memories have started re-emerging, if anyone tailgates me, I shake and can't breathe. I hate this because people in Texas tailgate all the time, so I'm guaranteed to be triggered whenever I go anywhere. I also have small children in the car, so when I get panicky, I have trouble speaking kindly and respectfully to them if they are getting loud or whiny. Medication has really helped with this, but interestingly having someone pray with me with the Theophostic prayer method about the roots of the anxiety is working best. I would never have guessed the link between the panick and all that old emotional pain, but as soon as I started working through the pain, the panic is gradually subsiding. I'm sorry others of you experience this. It really is paralyzing. I wish things like anxiety didn't exist. I feel more hope knowing that meds help while I am healing, and more importantly that there is hope for clearing the roots of these attacks (at least, in my case). Not everyone is open to the whole concept of asking God for help

May, 4 2010 at 2:24 am

Yeah!! It is becoming common among people these days as people are getting more impatient these days. Moreover, stress in office and their personal life does play a role in this.

April, 28 2010 at 12:39 pm

Wow! I have never talked to anybody who had the same anxiety about driving that I have! I've been terrified of driving outside my comfort zone ever since I got my license. I will drive around my hometown, but when my partner and I take road trips, I hate driving through any unfamiliar cities. Our first trip together, she asked if I wanted to drive right as we were approaching the freeway of a big city, and I nearly started crying telling her that I couldn't do it. I've never had any problems when driving, never had any accidents, only one near-miss with a deer, but the anxiety has always been there. It's gotten better in the past couple years, but part of that can probably be attributed to the medication I've been taking for generalized anxiety. I still have issues with driving unfamiliar vehicles, and to drive an unfamiliar vehicle in an unfamiliar city is pretty scary, but I've been able to get through it when I have to.

April, 28 2010 at 5:09 am

I have experienced anxiety while driving just very recently. It is rather serious if I am alone and less serious driving with my husband. My fear is a collision with another car. I feel like I am lost in unfamiliar places/roads and am not driving properly and will cause an accident because of how I am feeling. Recently, I had to return home while out shopping in an unfamiliar area. I have Onstar and cannot drive without it, but still fear an accident while I am listening to Onstar directions. Any help/suggestions on handling this?

Leave a reply