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Vehophobia: the fear of driving and how to get over it

Vehophobia is the fear of driving. All fears of driving are learned fears; we aren’t born with a fear of driving. The fears develop as a result of experiences in or around vehicles, or they become part of related fear, for example, claustrophobia or agoraphobia.

Causes of vehophobia

The development of driving fears is due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Being involved in an incident (e.g. a crash) in a vehicle
  • Being involved in an incident with a vehicle as a pedestrian or cyclist
  • Causing an incident when driving
  • Inexperience leading to anxiety
  • Health worries (fear of losing control because of, for example, reduce motor coordination or eyesight).

Symptoms of vehophobia

Vehophobia, like many phobias and fears, can manifest itself both physically and mentally with people experiencing:

  • Sweating
  • Accelerated pulse
  • Anxiety
  • Repeated thoughts about losing control while driving
  • Compulsive excuse-making for not driving.

The three types of vehophobia

Vehophobia might not occur all the time or in all driving circumstances. All kinds of experiences can happen to us while driving. We could have some kind of crash, we could be car-jacked, we could witness an accident, etc. Our experiences lead to three different types of vehophobia.

Indirect: these are related to a person’s experience either outside or within a vehicle (we mentioned agoraphobia and claustrophobia above) and could also include tachophobia (fear of speed)

Direct (risk-related): these are related to a driver having an irrational fear of something bad happening when driving, such as killing a pedestrian

Direct (scenario-related): these are often experienced by drivers who have had a bad experience. They can be generic, e.g. all driving, or very specific, e.g. driving in snow or alongside a cliff, or driving at night.

How do you cure your fear of driving?

Mitigating your feelings and fears can be accomplished by removing each obstacle that is causing the fear. For learner drivers, it’s natural to be anxious when starting to drive. Good driving instructors will methodically build a driver’s skill to improve confidence without overwhelming them. Therefore, for a learner driver, getting a driving instructor (or a different driving instructor) could solve the problem.

Experienced drivers usually develop a fear of driving through having had a bad experience in some kind of crash. Purchasing a safer car might be all it takes to assure the person they are safe, or it might take advanced driving lessons to give them strategies to improve their confidence.

In some cases, the fear never goes away but the person simply learns to manage it; they may avoid driving at specific times unless absolutely necessary, for example, at night.

If you are worried about your fear of driving, talking to a health professional is a good first step to get some input.

 

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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