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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

How To Tackle Driving Anxiety

Many people want to get out on the road, but find that anxiety is an impediment to them driving.

For some, this can stop people passing their test as nerves and fear cause them to seize up on the day and make a serious fault, while others might find the psychological strain of getting behind the wheel stops them even getting as far as the test. Others may find they fear taking another test after failing in the past.

The problems do not just affect learners, however; some who have passed the test in the past find they subsequently become more nervous about driving. This could be as a consequence of a bad driving experience such as an accident, or it could be a symptom of a general anxiety problem that has developed and impedes all manner of everyday tasks.

Here at the Mindful Therapist, we understand these things arise. Like many areas of fear, phobia and stress, it can be hard to admit to and sometimes be met with a lack of understanding. But it is a real issue and is recognised by major motoring organisations like the AA and RAC.

The AA noted that one survey found as many as 39 per cent of motorists feel anxious about driving, while both organisations noted there are different potential causes of the problem, some of which can relate to general phobias like performance anxiety.

Of course, part of the answer lies in techniques such as taking deep breaths, not rushing, avoiding driving at busy times and planning the route well. Learners can also benefit from having an instructor who remains calm and does not criticise when they make a mistake.

At the same time, therapy can help deal with the deeper route causes of driving anxiety. That may involve tackling the unresolved trauma of a bad experience, or deeper issues like performance anxiety.

The last of these is particularly important when approaching a test. Many people do well enough in their driving lessons for the instructor to be sure they are ready for the test, only for nerves to wreck everything on the big day. The AA has its own set of tips to handle the occasion, but even these may only be so much use if there are more deep-seated causes of your issues.

A further problem can arise if you are a qualified driver and an anxiety condition reaches the level of severity that there is a risk you won’t be able to drive safely. If things reach this point you must inform the DVLA, as you can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t.

This is, in effect, putting you in the same position as someone who is under the influence of alcohol or some other substance, and thus not able to drive safely and legally. But while you can have a drink one day and be sober and able to drive the next, anxiety is a bigger problem that won’t go away on its own.

Like so many other psychological issues, the first thing to do about driving anxiety is to acknowledge the problem. Then, once you have, to seek help. When you do, you will find the road ahead of you opens up in more ways than one.

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