New research has revealed that the phased lifting of lockdown from March could see a surge in nervous drivers on UK roads. Analysis of Google search data by car finance broker CarFinance 247, shows that the relaxing of lockdown restrictions has resulted in a rising trend of searches for ‘driver anxiety’.
The data shows a steady rise in searches as the rules relaxed through the summer last year, as more people went back to work, visited family and friends and booked staycations.
Interestingly, the tier system seemed to cause the most panic; the biggest spikes in ‘driving anxiety’ Google searches came after the announcement of England’s three-tier local alert system in October, and again when the strengthened tier system came into place at the beginning of December.
Boris Johnson’s most recent announcement to restart the country from March could see another surge in nervous drivers looking for advice on dealing with their driving anxiety. This could especially apply to the 97,946 new drivers who, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have passed their driving test since April 2020 and will have little experience driving on busy roads.
The return of pub revellers pouring into the streets, more cyclists (the pandemic triggered a ‘bicycle boom’) and socially distancing pedestrians may also bring fresh risks, requiring greater hazard perception.
Louis Rix co-CEO of CarFinance 247, shares: ‘Our findings highlight the nervousness some people feel about getting behind the wheel. What’s concerning to me is that our roads are going to be considerably busier this year as the country gets back to normal.
‘It’s natural for even the most experienced motorist to feel nervous about getting back in the driver’s seat after a short break, let alone a year. So, I encourage UK road users to be patient if they are behind a cautious or new driver, and offer support to anyone they know who might be feeling nervous about driving properly for the first time in a long time, or ever.’
For those dealing with driving anxiety, CarFinance 247 has provided top tips to help fight the fear.
Dealing with anxiety of any kind is tough, and it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling. But when it comes to driving anxiety, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, a 2018 survey of 2,000 people by Lloyds Bank found that a huge 70% of UK motorists sometimes get scared behind the wheel. They also found that 41% avoid going to places where it’s hard to park, and one in 4 people won’t drive in the rain or snow!
Try to establish what you’re afraid of
Maybe it’s not the fear of having an accident that’s making you anxious. It could be the thought of losing control, the idea of being trapped when you’re in a flow of traffic on the motorway or finding your way on an unfamiliar road. Whatever the reason, the more you understand it, the easier it could be to overcome.
Work out why is scares you
When you know what you’re scared of, the next step is finding out why it scares you. It could be that a past experience has made you more anxious than other drivers or there could be no clear reason at all. Knowledge is power. If a previous accident, watching a crash in a film or on the TV, or any other event has triggered your fear, then this may be something you can talk through with family, a close friend or even a therapist.
Never stop learning
Learning more about your car and driving could help increase your confidence. There’s no reason why you can’t have more lessons, even if you’ve passed your test! You could practice driving at night, going on the motorway, or parallel parking with an instructor on hand to help. If you’re afraid of what could happen if you break down, finding out more about how your car works might help. Perhaps take a car maintenance course or set aside some time to study the car manual to get clued up, and make sure you do the right car safety checks before you set off on a journey.
Take it slow
When you feel ready to start tackling your driving anxiety, there’s no shame in starting slow. It could be just getting used to sitting in the car and being a passenger on roads that could cause stress like motorways or narrow country lanes. You might then work up to driving short, familiar routes with a friend in the car too. Gradually you can increase the distance you drive, start tackling roads you’ve never driven before, and finally start driving alone.
Take care of yourself
Dealing with driving anxiety isn’t easy. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a setback or need to take a break. Act like your own best friend and consider making lifestyle changes that could help ease your anxiety. Cutting down on caffeine before you drive, trying not to drive on an empty stomach, and getting a good night’s sleep will help you be in the best shape possible to tackle your fear. You could take steps to make sure the car is as comfortable as possible too; maybe put together a soundtrack of your favourite songs or buy an air freshener that helps makes driving as pleasurable as possible.
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