Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Super OT: Fear of Driving (Cars)

Dear forum readers/posters,

This is very off-topic. Do you have any suggestion to cure fear of driving cars? During my early teens I have 2 experiences that possibly affected my fears:
1 when our car was plunged into shallow river.
2. when I learn to drive and during one turn instead of braking I put more speed therefore I hit a bicycle. Luckily the cyclist saw the car coming and he jumped of the bicycle.

I neglected learning cars because of my fears plus in my hometown there are good public transportations (buses, taxis), but now in my current city it's not as good as my hometown and my wife has asked to buy a car for her activities (money is not object), but both of us know very little about car and of course not drive-ready at this time.

Do you have any experience or advise that you can share?

Andy Bell
Friday, August 13, 2004

I was terrified of driving until I took up medieval battle reenactment, which did wonders for my situational awareness and general physical courage.
Suggest you take up a robust, fast paced sport, or a martial art.
I feel your fear!

Air Condo Victim
Friday, August 13, 2004

Try learning on an automatic. Then you will put less attention towards controlling the car, and more towards the road. This will reduce your chances of an accident.

Fernanda Stickpot
Friday, August 13, 2004

I guess you already have a drivers-license, but you can easily go to a driving school and take a few hours of lessons to get the feeling back and some advice from the tutor.

Guyon Morée
Friday, August 13, 2004

It sounds like you are actually afraid of some aspect of driving  - can you isolate it at all? Losing control maybe, or just looking an idiot on the road? If you can analyse it a bit you may be able to work out what you need to do to overcome it.

I agree some instructor lessons would be good - the longer you stay in a state of being afraid to drive, and not driving for that reason, the more its likely to mentally reinforce itself. If its just lack of confidence, you'll probably find the skills come back very quickly.

Matt Freestone
Friday, August 13, 2004

Go to a racing course. Lots of places run these things where you can turn up and they spend a day teaching you to drive round the racetrack. Which is reasonably safe -- if you do run off the track, there's lots of verges to stop on. You don't have to worry too much about observation; all the other cars are going the same way... there are no junctions or signs to read...

Once you've done that you should have a better feeling for what the car is doing, and then you'll feel more confident about driving on the roads. Feeling confident is the key - once you've got the controlling down to a subconscious level, you can spend your time doing observation and planning rather than thinking about messing about with the gears... eventually you stop having to think about which is the right gear in the same way that you don't have to think about breathing.

(Operating the stereo is a different matter. Who DO they get to design the controls for those things???)

EVERYONE  goes through this. I went through this[1]. Unfortunately some people don't get past it -- they keep hating driving and never regard it as something they can be good at. The trick, I think, is to a) find a car that suits you to learn in and b) enjoy the experience. It's something you have to do, but there's no reason not to try to be good at it and enjoy it as well..

My other half complains about my tendency to drive places: last weekend I drove half an hour each way to buy a packet of bolts. He doesn't get that driving is a fun experience for me... That was an hour of fun with a break in the middle. He's still stuck in this phase of being unco-ordinated and feeling dangerous while he's doing it (he's still learning). And yet, he's got the potential to be a good, conciensous, safe driver if he can get over that hump.

[1] Before graduating to complete petrolhead-dom and knowing things like why overhead camshafts are better...

Katie Lucas
Friday, August 13, 2004

Move to Europe or a big city with a good public transport system - you won't need a car.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Until your wife is pregnant at night and you need to drive her to the hospital ASAP.

Andrew Gibbs
Friday, August 13, 2004

Diving around an empty parking lot, or any other large empty area is a good idea. Very little danger, but you can get a "feel" for the car. It also helps if you do some silly things while you're doing this.

For example, when it rains sometimes I hit the brakes too hard and enter into a controlled skid (hydroplane), pump the brakes to regain control, or let it run it's course. The same with ice.

I did this because I didn't know how a car would handle in these conditions, and it probably made me a little scared. Experiencing what it's like to skid in a situation that wasn't dangerous helps me keep a cool head when I really am in a dangerous situation and skidding.

So while you're in the wide open area, try stopping short, making a sharp turn, etc. Don't be too timid, it doesn't take a lot of courage to hit the brakes hard at 5 miles an hour. Just do it and in the futre you'll know you can do it again.

Good luck!
Friday, August 13, 2004

How refreshing!  A person afraid of cars.  More people need to realise how dangerous cars are.  One of my friends mixed up the gas and brake pedals in a stressful situation and turned a minor mistake into a three car pile-up which could have killed us.

To overcome the fear I would try the racetrack suggestion but scale it down in terms of expense and speed.  Try some go-kart racing.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Phobias are the easiest psychological problems to cure, supposedly.  Get out your phone book and find a cognitive or behavioral psychologist and tell him you want to eliminate this fear.  It should take a few months at most.

Good Luck.

If not, I'm told alcohol is good for screwing up one's courage.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, August 13, 2004


If you live in the UK, here's two links for you:-

If you get involved, try to make sure you get at least one observed drive with a police driver before the test - my experience was that they push you much harder than the civilian observers do; this is worth the effort in the long run.

BTW: You've *got to* do some skid pan training - you'll love it.


Friday, August 13, 2004

"...alcohol is good for screwing up"  < Sentence should end here.

Friday, August 13, 2004

I have relatives who are afraid to change lanes. One once drove from Sacramento to San Francisco without ever changing lanes once. This takes a bit of planning since lanes disappear and are added in certain places.

Miles Archer
Friday, August 13, 2004

Andy, my advice would be to go take a professional performance driving course. If you are in the US I'd specifically reccomend the Skip Barber courses. That will serve two purposes: 1) you will learn excellent car control in an open and safe environment with top notch instructors, and 2) you will be able to simply enjoy driving in a non-stressful area. I'd assume that would be the best impetus that you could have to get on the road. You would then know that you can control the vehicle, and also look forward to the simple joy of driving.


Friday, August 13, 2004

> I have relatives who are afraid to change lanes. One once drove from Sacramento to San Francisco without ever changing lanes once.

Oh that would explain that mess at the bay bridge : 0 

IMHO if you are afraid of changing lanes I 80 isn't a good place to be driving. 

christopher (
Friday, August 13, 2004

That's amazing to have relatives (plural) afraid to change lanes.  Do they have a genetic deficiency in peripheral vision?

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, August 13, 2004

It was learned. The mom had a friend killed in a car accident as a child and warned all her kids of the dangers of changing lanes. Also she warned all the kids of the dangers of choking on fish bones.

Now that it occurs to me, I am not afraid of driving, but I am deathly afraid of being a passenger with some drivers.

Miles Archer
Friday, August 13, 2004

"I have relatives who are afraid to change lanes."

And how do these people - who are clearly unfit for the road - have licenses?

Friday, August 13, 2004

I am not afraid of driving.  But I am deathly afraid of other drivers.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

AFAIK you can't choke on a fishbone - it's too small to block your airway.

People do die as a result of getting fishbones lodged in their throats, however - they panic, hyperventilate, and go into anaphylactic shock, or something like that.

The fishbone wasn't blocking the airway, just the fear.

So if you ever do get a fishbone stuck in your throat, the important thing is DON'T PANIC.

Because if you do, you'll die.

Fernanda Stickpot
Saturday, August 14, 2004

If you're afraid of driving - DON'T!!!!

I might have to share the road with you. I don't want to share the road with somebody who's afraid of their car. If you're afraid of your car you're a lot more likely to do something stupid and endanger the people around you. I lived next to a nursing home for three years, where I developed a healthy respect for the amount of trouble a driver can cause when they aren't road worthy any more.

Go to a driving school first. I don't think that the performance schools are for you. Go to the regular driving school and just get some practice time behind the wheel.  The good private schools have their own courses, so you can learn in a controlled environment.

Think of this like handling a gun. If you're afraid of handling a gun, you shouldn't, because you're a danger to yourself and others. Since even a small car can deliver a lot more kinetic energy than a very large gun, and people don't always realize that they need to get out of your way when you're pointing a car at them, you need to be confident in your ability to handle the car.  Maybe that's the trick.  Learn to handle something safer, like a gun, that also requires a lot of situational awareness. Once you're comfortable there and can reliably not kill people (unintentionally), move up to the car and master the same skill.

Clay Dowling
Saturday, August 14, 2004

See a psychologist for a Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) program--this is highly treatable like the above poster said.  Your therapist will develop an exposure program with you, where you do driving tasks daily that make you feel moderately anxious.  You can tackle this very quickly!  Don't use alcohol to cope, though, it will make it worse in the long run, since it'll make the exposure program less likely to work.

A Psychologist
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home