Fear of driving and how to be a safer driver

fear-of-drivingOne thing that was very evident on my recent trip to Ireland was how much busier the traffic is. A local explained to me that The Troubles kept people indoors more, especially after dark. With the end of all that, people in Northern Ireland are much more likely to be out in their cars at all times of the day and night. However, many of the roads were built to serve previous traffic levels, not the hugely increased current ones. Hence you get increased traffic congestion, especially around Belfast.

In the light of their new research on car safety and driving in Ireland (find out more in the infographic below), Chill Insurance, experts in car insurance, have asked me to take a look at the subject. And those of you who know me will know that this is my specialist subject. For newcomers – my story is that I had a fear of driving so bad that I didn’t drive at all for seven years. Then I managed to overcome my phobia and went on to write a book about fear of driving and how to deal with it. And since then the book has helped thousands of people all around the world beat fear of driving and get back on the roads. Go me. And go all those other people too.

So with that in mind, these are my tips for car safety, for anyone who is anxious about driving:

  • Know the local limits
    If where you live is anything like Brighton where I live, you could easily be driving down a street with a 20mph limit, on to a road with a 30mph limit which then turns into 50mph pretty quickly. You will feel more in control, and consequently safer, once you know what the parameters are and how you will have to adjust your driving to suit the local conditions.
  • Keep up with the speed of the cars around you
    Nervous drivers often drive slowly, but this is the worst thing you can do. It will irritate the other drivers around you and interrupt the flow fear-of-driving-book-coverof traffic. And irritated drivers are the ones who will beep their horns at you or try to overtake in a hurry. None of which will be good for your anxiety. Once you know the speed limit of the road you’re on, aim to keep up with it. It’s the safer thing to do.
  • Stop if you need to
    If you are feeling extremely anxious, then do pull over if you need to. You won’t be the first or last person to have had a panic attack whilst driving, and you will get over it. But sometimes the safest place for you to be is not on the road.
  • Know that many other drivers feel anxious too
    Often anxious drivers assume that everybody else is uberconfident and probably judging their terrible driving. The surprising truth is that fear of driving can affect up to 1 in 3 people. In other words, lots of people on the roads feel just like you. And they’re just trying to get home safely too

And above all – keep driving! If you know that you feel scared or anxious about driving then make it a priority never to let more than a week go by without getting behind the wheel. Normalise it by doing it as often as possible. Even if it’s only a tiny drive around the block, it all adds up.

Do you have any questions about overcoming fear of driving? Or tips about what can help make driving safer? Please leave a comment below

dangerous drives infographic

*Collaborative post with Chill Insurance

Best of Worst
Dear Bear and Beany
  • Fab post. I am still learning how to drive so this is so handy.

    • Good luck with learning Stella, it’s an important skill to have.

  • Good tips, I will keep them in mind. I have a driving license, but my husband usually drives as I’m not as experienced as he is.

    • Keep driving Anca! That’s the only way you’ll build up experience, until it becomes a totally normal skill.

  • Burnished Chaos

    Good tips, especially keeping with the speed limit, I have seen so many near misses because frustrated drivers have overtaken slow drivers in dangerous places. I used to be terrified by the idea of driving and didn’t actually learn till I was 30 and finding it a struggle relying on buses with a pushchair when my husband was away. Now I love it but still get nervous if I’m going to somewhere unfamiliar, using a satnav always with this, some of them even tell you the speed limit of the road you are currently on. #SharingtheBlogLove #bestandworst

    • Well done you on busting through the fear and learning to drive. Using a satnav is a great tip.

  • Run Jump Scrap!

    These are great tips. I remember getting a bit nervous driving after I went back to work after having my daughter. You just lose your nerve, especially after dark. It soon came back with some practice though! Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x

    • That’s really key to it, not to leave too long a gap between drives. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to restart. So glad to hear your nerve came back!

  • lynn savage

    I’ve always had a fear of driving and just managed without it, there are plenty of buses, trains, friends around and I walked a lot. I finally learnt to drive when I was 51, last year. I was given an old car by a friend and drive it occasionally but I still hate, really hate driving. I walk to work as it’s very close and still use buses and trains. I just don’t want to drive but my parents are getting elderly and insist I drive because they won’t be able to soon and they’ll need me to drive them about. If it weren’t for them I would give up now.

    • Good for you for learning to drive despite your fear. If you can force yourself to drive more often (at least once a week), then you will find that it becomes easier in time. Whilst it absolutely is a valid choice to deal with this fear by not driving, what I’ve found is that it’s still very stressful to deal with an unresolved fear. It really does grind you down in lots of ways. Ultimately this is not about the driving, but about choosing to conquer a fear. Many best wishes to you and thanks for commenting.

  • I think I could quite easily have been a nervous driver, but I was lucky to have a great driving instructor who threw me into it. I remember him always saying to ‘drive to the speed limit wherever possible’, I was never allowed to be that poodling learner driver! I’ve seen so many instances of dangerous tailgating and overtaking from people driving too slowly – it really does frustrate people. Most of my lessons were focused on reading the road ahead and anticipating what other drivers might do – something that has really stayed with me, and a skill that I don’t think my husband has at all! Thanks so much for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Oh wow, sounds like you had a fantastic driving instructor. It’s amazing the difference that makes. Thanks for commenting Katy.

  • Laura @dearbearandbeany

    I have never been a nervous driver, until a month ago when I got hit by a car on my side of the road. It really knocked me and I feel myself getting anxious when a car gets too close and I think they are going to hit me too. I hope over time this will go! Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x

    • You know that is something I talk about in the book. Having a small accident, especially at a time when you are already stressed, is one of the triggers for developing driving phobia. So it’s by no means unusual. Keep driving and you will get your confidence back.