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What is driving anxiety?

A driving anxiety is an overwhelming fear of driving or fear of having a panic attack while driving, which can cause you to limit or avoid driving altogether. Driving anxiety can also cause you to become anxious and scared when you are a passenger in a motor vehicle. Below are driving anxiety symptoms you may experience:

  • Fear and panic – this may be excessive, intense and/or persistent.
  • An overwhelming urge to get away from the car
  • Sweating
  • Feeling disorientated or confused
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Increased heart rate, chest pain
  • Rapid breathing – sometimes to the point of hyperventilating
  • Increased urge to avoid certain circumstances which remind you of the crash. E.g. where a crash took place, peak hour traffic times or modes of transport
  • Thoughts or flashbacks of having a crash or something bad happening when in the car

What can I do to overcome a driving anxiety?

Talk about your experience

It can be normal to feel afraid or anxious after experiencing a traumatic incident like a car crash, as you can feel more hypervigilant. It is okay to admit that you don’t feel safe or comfortable driving. Opening up to friends, family or colleagues you trust may help you to process and understand more about what you are experiencing.  

Identify triggers

It can be helpful to understand what is causing your anxiety. There can be a range of reasons such as certain road conditions, driving in heavy traffic, driving behind trucks etc. The more awareness you have of your triggers, the more able you are to develop strategies to cope with them.

Practice relaxation

Learn some relaxation techniques and practice these regularly to reduce your stress response and calm your anxiety. You can do this using breathing or mindfulness exercises or by engaging in an activity that relaxes you. If you experience an increase in anxiety while you are driving, take a few deep breaths and relax any tension felt in your body. This will signal to your body that you are safe, and help you remain present and focused while driving.

Seek professional help

If driving anxiety continues to impact your daily functioning, organise a health check with your G.P. who can give helpful advice on how to proceed including referral options in your local area. This may include seeing a counsellor or psychologist, through various services. Speaking with a mental health professional can be a helpful way to process your experience and learn tools to manage or reduce your anxiety response.

Road Trauma Support WA provides a free counselling service to anyone affected by road trauma. You can access our service in person, via telephone or video.   

Find out more about our free counselling service.

Find out more

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