A recent survey found that as many as 66% of Americans experience driving anxiety on the road. Driving anxiety occurs when an individual experiences anxiety symptoms like an elevated heart rate, feelings of stress or even panic attacks when driving or thinking about driving a vehicle.
Anxiety from driving may be brought on for several different reasons that include the presence of driving-related phobias, prior history of anxiety, lack of driving efficacy and prior negative experiences in a car.
The survey conducted by The Zebra also discovered that 55% of American drivers get the most anxiety performing basic driving skills. The top driving skills that caused the most anxiety for American drivers were merging onto the highway and backing up/reversing.
Common anxiety-inducing driving manoeuvres
- Merging onto the highway
- Backing up or reversing
- Unprotected left turns
- Other driving manoeuvres
- Passing other vehicles
- Switching lanes
Survey results also showed that although a majority of people get anxiety driving, women (75%) reported experiencing driving anxiety more often than men (55%). Women also were more likely to report that merging onto the highway and backing up/reversing caused them the most anxiety.
62% of Americans have a post-traumatic driving experience. Another notable finding is that about 3 in 5 Americans have a post-traumatic driving experience. Of those that reported having a traumatic driving experience, 73% were the driver and 27% reported being a passenger in the incident.
With research showing that 25-33% of those in a motor vehicle accident are likely to develop an anxiety disorder like PTSD in the aftermath, it’s not unreasonable that so many people feel anxiety behind the wheel.
Older adults were found to be more likely to report having a traumatic driving experience, yet those aged 50 and over were more likely to report that they did not experience any driving anxiety. This suggests that driving anxiety can be managed over time and with accumulated driving experience.
For those that experience driving anxiety, there are ways to manage their symptoms. Trying out relaxation techniques and expanding your driving experiences outside of your comfort zone can help you remain calm and build confidence. These techniques may help those with mild or manageable feelings of driving anxiety.
If your driving anxiety interrupts your everyday life, it’s recommended that you seek support from a mental health professional. In particular, if you have an anxiety disorder or specific phobia related to driving, a specialised professional will be best to offer targeted treatment.