I have an irrational fear of driving.

I didn’t think this really belonged in GQ, since I’m asking for advice/opinions on a subjective issue and not a factual question, and I didn’t put it in MPSIMS since I’m soliciting opinions, but feel free to move it if it needs to be.

I’m 27 years old, and I do not have a driver’s license.

I got my learner’s permit at age 15 and took driver’s ed. I had maybe a couple of driving lessons from my mother, way back when I was 15/16. She had the horrible habit of nagging at me, clutching the armrests, and grabbing the wheel from my hands. This caused me to nearly get into an accident once. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to take my license test, and since then I have not had the opportunity to get much practice, so I really need to start from scratch.

I have barely touched a car since, for a multitude of reasons, but I really need to get my license this winter. It’s no longer an option to not have it. I have a car, I just need to learn to drive it.

I do, however, have massive anxiety relating to driving. Can anyone offer suggestions on some things I can do to get over my massive anxiety / phobia about driving a car? I have a really irrational fear about getting into accidents because of my inability to control what other people do on the road. I’m a very defensive driver, but the one thing I have problems with is figuring out where the ‘right’ spot for me to be on the road is. I veer way too far to one side of my lane or the other, and have trouble getting a feel for where the car is supposed to be.

I plan to take lessons from a recommended driving teacher, but I cannot afford them right now, so I was hoping there might be something I can do for myself in the interim to just feel more comfortable in a car and with driving in general.

I don’t have any tips for you, but I sympathize. I am 29 year old man who also has never had a driver’s license. My story is similar to yours. I got my learner’s permit a week past my 15th birthday. My dad gave me lessons too. Turns out I am just a really bad driver. I have generally bad hand-eye coordination. Luckily, I live in a city with a great public transportation system.

At the warehouse where I work they signed me up for training to drive an order picker/forklift/electric pallet jack. When they initially offered training, I declined to sign-up, but then my supervisor volunteered me because I am such a damn good worker. Maybe after learning to drive a forklift/ order picker I might make another stab at getting my license.

:slight_smile: It’s okay, Ataraxy. We can have a non-driver’s pity party. Good luck with the training, it might help. If you feel comfortable with something on a smaller scale, it might be able to prep you a bit for the bigger thing.

It’s really the busy city driving I’m terrified of. I have no problem driving on highways at 65/70MPH, or on crappy back dirt roads. It’s the bumper-to-bumper crazy in-town driving that really scares me. When I got my permit I was living in the country, and there was never any traffic. I’m just not used to it, and the driving around this place is crazy. I’m sure other places are wacky too, but the driving in Burlington / Winooski VT really worries me.

Even as a passenger, I’ve been in cars where people nearly got sideswiped / broadsided / hit head on because of other people doing stupid things like not looking where they were going, running lights, or being in the completely wrong lane and cutting people off, et cetera.

I start to get really worked up wondering if I could react fast enough to get out of the way if someone was going to hit me, and I sort of get ‘deer-in-headlights’ frozen.

On the other hand, I KNOW I’m being illogical and overreacting, and I’m hoping that that will help once I can actually get some practice in these situations behind the wheel.

Burlington is a busy city!? That’s country driving where I come from :slight_smile: I was a passenger when my brother got in an accident because he ran a red light. Scariest 5 seconds of my life, but everybody was all right.

I’ll up the ante. I’m 34 and don’t have a license. And like you, I really ought to get one soon. I used to be able to take the bus directly from work to home, but due to higher gas prices and budget cuts they had to get rid of that route.

Now I have a little extra walking to do. Which would be OK, except that soon it will be dark outside before I leave work, and it’s not that great a place to be walking alone after dark.

So far I’ve taken 5 lessons from a professional driving school, and I don’t think I’m getting anywhere. I also have trouble staying centered on the road, and spend so much time concentrating on the seemingly hundreds of little details to keep track of that I barely notice that the vehicle in front of me has stopped and my foot’s still on the gas.

And so at this point the $80/week I’ve been spending on lessons is sounding more and more like good cab fare. I’m really annoyed that I have to do all this, and buy and feed a car all for traveling 3 miles to work and 3 back.

I’m not being any help at all, am I? :frowning:

Like many things, practice will help you most, of course. I would recommend driving in a parking lot that’s not too busy, but is large enough to have some lanes. Get feedback from a passenger on how much room you really have on your right side. Your vehicle of course may be different, but when I was learning that particular driving skill, I found that I could align the center of my hood with the line on the right. Just try to get a visual reference point on your car that you can use to help you relate to your actual position within the lane. I did a lot of parking lot driving before I ever hit the real road, and then that was some backcountry driving all the way, and I think both of those things helped me transition into driving on the road.

Well, I’m previously from Barton, VT. More cows than people out there, seriously. And before that, it was Wheelock. Prior to that, I wasn’t driving age.

It’s not so much the ‘busy’ part that bothers me as the screwed up roads. Massive amounts of one-way only streets, two-lane streets only wide enough for one car, crazy intersections, places missing signs and/or signals and lines on the roads to show you what you’re supposed to be doing, and the rotary that they put in near the Winooski - Burlington area. It messes with my nerves.

If I think about it and let it bother me, riding ANY kind of motorized transportation makes me nervous. Just don’t think about it.

As for driving, all I have to do is think back to my first few months of regular driving when I was 17 and all the near accidents I had (for instance, I tried to pass some grandma driving too slow on a single lane road when I had no real concept of how far away an oncoming car should be before attempting it; I ended up running an oncoming car off the road) that never materialized, as well as the one accident I did have on the highway that I walked away from without a scratch. In fact, because of my experience, if I ever have kids I’m going to severely limit the area they’re allowed to drive so that they’re not driving on any rural routes or on the highway until they’ve had some drive time.

So I guess my advice is try not to think about it and give yourself plenty of practice. AND STAY OFF YOUR PHONE

Oh, no worries there. I hate talking on the phone even when I’m not in a car. I would never talk on the phone or text and drive.

Got my license to drive when I was 16 and started driving.
Then moved to Berlin when I was 21 and didn’t drive again for about 14 years.
Moved back to the US, of all places - to LA where driving is pretty much mandatory and no picnic. Scared to death to drive again. Took me three days to figure out how to turn on the headlights!

Practice, practice, practice.

At some point, it becomes second nature and I, like many people, now can drive home from work and not even remember driving!

Get a car, take it into a field and practise driving in the field. Start very slowly at first and learn where the dimensions of the car are. Practise driving close to a hedge row or similar to see where your car is in relation to it.

You’re not alone. My sister is exactly the same way as yourself and has terrible fear of not being able to control what other road users are doing.

Having seen how badly the anxiety affects my sister, who is now 35 years old, driving is not for everyone. If it’s not for you, decide that. And don’t feel bad about it. I jump out of planes and most people think I’m nuts. But freefall isn’t for everyone :slight_smile:

You definitely have to practice. The only thing I really learned from driver’s ed was a rough idea of how to parallel park. :slight_smile: I learned how to truly drive just from driving around!
Get a friend who is a good driver to go out with you and drive around for a while (avoiding rush hour at first). Start off on those little country roads until you have a feel for where your car is supposed to be in your lane.
If it helps ease your fears, about 33% of car accident fatalities are due to drunk drivers, and the majority of drunk drivers are out at night, so maybe you can tell yourself that you’re safer on the road than the average person if you’re restricting your driving to the daytime.

Count me in. I got my license at 26 because I was pregnant and had no one reliable to get me to the hospital. Then I didn’t drive again until I was 30. I am very comfortable driving now and have taught several others. Some tips:

Acknowledge that it is scarey. Very. Your feelings are more understandable than those of the overly confident.

Spend a lot of time learning the dimensions of the car. Walk around it. Find a quiet street and stop the car in its lane on the street. Walk around it. See how much room there is. Get back in. See how close things look. You will be amazed when it finally clicks that even residential streets have room for 4 or more cars to pass each other side by side.

Park the car (in various types of spaces–parallel, diagonal, driveway). Walk around–see how close things look. Sit in the car–see how close things look. Things always look closer from inside the car.

Find a field or parking lot. Drive around and around and around. Go slowly, brake, turn. Stop, start. Breathe. Do this for months if necessary, before even thinking about going on the road. This is like riding your bicycle with training wheels in the driveway. It’s ok. It’s necessary.

Bring a cardboard box (or two) along to the field or parking lot. Practice “not hitting the boxes.”

Find a quiet time of the day and a quiet neighborhood (read absolutely no traffic–a housing development under construction on a holiday is ideal). Sit in the car as long as you need to, until you get your panic under control. :slight_smile: Start the car and drive one or two blocks. Stop and get relaxed (ha ha). Visualize that you really do have the training wheels on the car. Try to do this for an hour or so. Repeat as necessary.

Get another person with another car to come along and “be the traffic”. This should still be in your safe, traffic free housing development. Start at opposite ends of the block and drive towards each other. Repeat, repeat. It will click eventually that “Hey, there’s plenty of room. And there’s plenty of time (at 25 miles per hour) to react.”

Take those lessons from the professional to get prepared for your road test. And, finally, accept that you probably will not pass your road test the first time.

Along with lessons and practice, here’s something you can do in the meantime:


If I were you, I would start by learning a relaxation techinique. I highly recommend getting a CD that walks you through the process. After a couple of weeks of practice, you should be able to take a few breaths and calm yourself. Then you start imagining yourself in a situation that is only slightly anxiety-provoking, and breath until you can picture that without getting anxious. Then you try something more anxiety-provoking, and repeat the process, working your way through your list to the top. By doing this in your imagination first, you will be less anxious when you start the lessons and practice.

I’m almost 38, and have lived in Southern CA all my life, and have never had a drivers’ license.

My husband is understanding, but lately has been mentioning more often that it would really take some pressure off his shoulders and make things easier for both of us in a lot of ways if he weren’t the only one driving. I see that, and I understand, and I feel bad for him…but the idea of being behind the wheel just scares me so much.

I’m really dreading this. I will do it, for him, but I really really really wish I didn’t have to.

I’m 55 and have never had a driver’s licence. :eek:

Of course I live in England, where a car is not mandatory. :cool:

I’m glad to see I’m not the only non-driving Doper. I’m 37 years old and still don’t have a driver’s license - in LA, no less. Heresy, I tell you!

I carpool to work in the morning and take the bus home in the evening, and get rides from relatives pretty much everywhere else. If I’m going to downtown LA I take Metro rail - there’s a Green Line station within walking distance of my house. I want to get my license, and have gotten my learner’s permit several times. I’m just terrified of taking the wheel. Plus, every time I have gathered enough money together to pay for driving lessons, something always happens that requires massive infusions of cash, like a relative’s wedding or a trip to the emergency room. I can’t ask relatives to take me driving 'cause they’re either all too busy or have what I call “issues” with teaching anyone to drive. They drive just fine, but just get either impatient or overly nervous when directing others to drive. So hopefully I will get over my fears and get enough cash together soon. I’m tired of depending on relatives and buses. Last week my bus home, usually on time at 5:50 p.m., arrived at the stop at 7:00 p.m., by which time 3 cars had honked at me for being a lone woman in a dress at a bus stop, perhaps thinking I was a hooker or something (yes, it’s that kind of neighborhood).:mad:

It’s perfectly reasonable to be anxious at first. Many of us get through it by learning to drive and getting our license when we’re young*. By the time we figure out that we’re not immortal, we already know how to drive and don’t really think about it much.

The first stages of learning to drive are particualrly stressful. They can make you feel, as Ataraxy said, that you’re just uncoordinated or a naturally bad driver. If you stop to think about it, though, there’s a reason for that: you’re doing something for which your body has no evolutionary reference points. It feel like trying to walk on your hands, or write with your feet. All your life outside the car, you turn right by pushing with your left foot; now, suddenly, you do it by using your hand (and probably your right hand, at that) to turn a wheel.

Fortunately, the human body is a marvelously adaptable thing, and you will develop conditioned reflexes that allow you to do these things without thinking about it. As those reflexes grow, you can take your attention away from the little mechanical details inside the car and dedicate it to what’s going on around you. Once you reach that point, you will feel less stressed about other drivers and road conditions, because you have the time to watch for them, and the conditioned reflexes to cope with them. Turning the wheel to avoid another car will be more like stepping aside to avoid another pedestrian.

The key to getting there, as others have already said, is to practice. Practice driving up and down someplace safe until all the mechanics of steering, braking, and accelerating feel natural to you. You’ll also develop a better feel for the size and position of your car while doing so. Then start dealing with some nice, safe obstacles like cardboard boxes; set up pairs of them and practice driving between them, then turning between them.

*Me, I started out driving a tractor when I was about 10, then driving a truck with about a turn-and-a-half of slack in the wheel up and down a dirt road. I’m from so far out in the backwoods that owls hoot in the daytime and they keep possums for yard dogs, and I never drove in anything more than a one-light town until I was 16…when my father took me to Dallas and made me drive all the way across the metroplex at 5:00 PM on a Friday afternoon. I had the shakes on and off for days after that.

22 here, just got my license this past July. I was given a car and I was going to have to drive that car across the country in mid-August, so I knew that I was finally out of procrastination time.

I was pretty similar to everyone who posted. I got my permit at 15 and practiced here and there. I was just not into it. Everything was in walking distance. I hated practicing with my parents; an alcoholic mom and a Dad who would yell at me and make me cry over my mistakes. I used to have nightmares all the time about not being able to control the car, or getting caught driving or crashing without an adult with me.

I just said “Enough is enough, it’s time to grow up.” I shouldn’t let some irrational nightmares control me. I had to accept the fact that we live in a nation where it’s next to impossible to get by without a car. I had to see that not every drive was out to get me didn’t want to crash into my car for their own enjoyment. My biggest anxiety was driving in the city and parallel parking (at least in Michigan you had to do 3 types of parking for the test before you even went out on the road) I just forced myself to do it and the week before my test my aunt (bless her) took me out to a parking lot with cones and forced me to practice the three types over and over.

And you know what? The actual test was nothing! Besides giving myself a migraine right before the test (I was nervous about the parallel parking because I kept messing up right until the test but miraculously nailed it). The test itself was maybe 15 minutes with a few turns here and there.* Sometimes I can’t believe that I got my license, it felt too easy! Even now I am still aware that I am not the best driver, but I get better everyday with more practice.


*Granted, on the highway a couch from the truck in front of me fell off the back and RIGHT INTO MY PATH, but I doubt this will happen to you.[/SIZE]

It’s just practice. Get up early on Sunday morning, like around 7, when nobody’s on the road. Drive around. Big streets, little streets, everywhere.