How to not be nervous while driving (Useful tips)

In this guide, we will discuss “How to not be nervous while driving”. We will also talk about some of the reasons why you could have developed driving anxiety or phobia and a few useful tips on how to overcome your fear.

How to not be nervous while driving

If you are wondering, ‘How to not be nervous while driving?’ it is possible that not so long, you started to fear even the thought of getting into a car. For some people, it is reason enough to make them feel tense, start sweating and shaking. Here are some tips if you happen to suffer from driving anxiety:

  • There are some basics such as not driving on an empty stomach because this can increase your anxiety and make you irritable.
  • Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages such as coffee, sodas, energy drinks, among others. It can worsen your anxiety symptoms making you feel even more nervous while driving.
  • Ask a friend or someone you trust to accompany you the first few times. If you are engaged in a conversation it is less likely for you to focus on your anxious thoughts.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.

How to not be nervous while driving (Useful tips)

Additionally, consider that diving anxiety can range in severity from considering not driving to where your anxiety is debilitating and you refuse to drive. In this case, it is considered as a driving phobia since a phobia is considered a paralyzing but irrational fear. However, you may think you are one of the few people with this kind of phobia but in fact, a driving phobia is considered one of the most common.

Is driving phobia related to agoraphobia?

According to Ted Moreno, who is a certified hypnotherapist, “Driving phobia is a form of agoraphobia, literally defined as the fear of open spaces. But it’s not the fear of open spaces that scares people, it’s the fear of loss of control.”

Subsequently, feeling trapped in a traffic jam, fear of passing out, losing control of the car, or not being able to escape a panic attack can make driving a very frightening experience.

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms can vary from one person to the other even if both suffer from driving anxiety. The symptoms are very similar to other forms of anxiety, ´which include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating 
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Disorientation and/or confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling you are about to die or go crazy

As expected, having all these symptoms can be very scary and most people will try to avoid driving at all cost so they can also avoid those feelings.

How to not be nervous while driving (Useful tips)

What causes driving anxiety? 

There are several reasons why someone can develop a phobia when driving. Most likely, those with driving anxiety have experienced an incident such as a car accident or nearly having an accident. However, you don’t necessarily need to be in a car accident to fear driving. Some people have seen others have car accidents or they have seen it in movies or the news.

Additionally, if you have low blood sugar it can make you feel anxious and it can be associated with driving. In other words, if you happen to be driving while you have low blood sugar levels then you are at risk of developing driving anxiety. You could be at a higher risk if you have a history of diabetes or hypoglycemia.

Tip 1: Take someone with you

Driving on your own can be nerve-wracking and you may not be nervous about the actual driving but having to drive alone. However, we understand you can’t always have someone with you while you drive but carpooling may be a good idea. It makes it so much easier if you have someone talking and having a conversation with you while you drive, removing the focus from your anxious thoughts.

 Additionally, try to gradually take short trips on your own and then attempt longer ones. You will slowly notice you don’t need someone to go everywhere with you.

Tip 2: daytime driving vs night driving

Driving during the day can be completely different as driving during the night. If you are starting to drive then consider driving only during the day at first. We know at night you may have to be more alert and for some people, it gets harder to see at night. 

After you have been feeling confident about driving during the day, you can start conquering your fear at night. 

Tip 3: if you have had an accident

We know being in a car accident and having to go back to drive can make the experience terrifying. You may be re-living the trauma or episode from the car accident as very vivid flashbacks. Avoiding going back to driving won’t help you conquer your fear and you may need to be prepared to drive in case of an emergency. 

Remember that the longer you wait after the accident, the hardest it will become because there is always going to be a voice saying ‘don’t do it’. However, take some time to process the situation and the trauma but don’t close yourself to the possibility of driving again.

Tip 4: put in some relaxing tunes

Have a playlist prepared for when you are driving. Music can be a huge distraction but not enough to put you at risk of an accident unless you have it on a very high volume. If you are driving and you decide to put on some music, try it at a low volume since it will help you keep relaxed. Music is not the only option, you can also try some podcasts or breathing exercises.

Tip 5: fear of having a panic attack

If you have had panic attacks in the past you may fear immensely being stuck in traffic and having a panic attack. People with a panic attack history tend to avoid situations where they are feeling trapped or not being able to get out quickly. 

As ADAA mentions, “Anxiety targets certain organs in the body. While some may experience racing heart and difficulty breathing, others experience diarrhoea, lightheadedness or nausea. The mere thought of having these symptoms and being stuck in traffic results in more anxiety and more avoidance.”

Tip 6: fear of having an accident

If you fear having an accident every time you are driving, it means you don’t trust your abilities. In your mind, there may be a lot of car crashes but doesn’t necessarily mean they would happen in real life. Keep safety precautions, follow the instructions you have learned during your driver’s lessons and drive at the best of your abilities. If you are unsure about how to do a manoeuvre then try to practice.

Tip 7: if the fear is too overwhelming

If you start feeling too overwhelmed by the fear of driving and it has started to impact your life significantly, consider paying a visit to a mental health professional for further advice. Remember that anxiety won’t go away on its own so it is important to find the reason why you have developed a driving anxiety so it can be treated.

Why is this blog about How to not be nervous while driving important?

As we have discussed on ‘How to not be nervous while driving’, the fear of driving is more common than many people think. However, we know anxiety won’t go away on its own if we decide to ignore it and think nothing is happening. If you fear driving because you have had a car accident, an incident or you have witnessed one, try to gradually start to drive again even if you start from scratch. Other people find it useful, depending on the severity of their anxiety, to put some music while they drive or ask someone to join them. 

Additionally, try to identify the thoughts, write them down and challenge them. Finally, learning deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can help you overcome anxiety when you are driving. Remember all the psychical symptoms you experience are triggered when we perceive danger or a threatening situation but remind yourself it is not necessarily a harmful situation. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous while driving

How can I stop anxiety while driving?

If you feel anxious while driving, here are some tips:

– Listen to some relaxing music, podcasts or the radio so it can help you remove the focus of your thoughts.

– Before you start driving, try to take slow deep breaths.

– Accept your anxiety, don’t fight it.

– Ask someone you trust to go with you.

Why am I so afraid of driving?

If you are afraid of driving it could be because you have had a difficult or traumatic experience in the past, you have watched too many movies or videos with car accidents and you may fear having a traffic accident. The fear of driving can also be called driving phobia.

How can I calm my nerves before driving?

If you would like to calm your nerves before driving, here are a few tips:
– Tell yourself you are ready to drive.

– Have a ‘driving’ playlist.

– Don’t skip any meals or you can become irritable while driving.

– Take some deep breaths before and during driving.

What helps a nervous driver?

If you are a nervous driver, consider the following tips:
– Practice basic skills and manoeuvres.

– Prepare your vehicle and check everything is in order. Enough gas, road kit, etc.

– Plan your journey. If you need (and can) avoid routes with too much traffic. 

– Remain calm when you are on the road by doing breathing exercises.

– Practice good driving habits.

Is driving anxiety common?

Driving anxiety is very common and it can range from mild to severe. The most severe form can make you feel paralyzed even when you are not facing a threatening or harmful situation. Some people may even refuse to drive at all and others do drive but experience certain discomfort.

 References 

Moreno, T. (2019, Jan.) How to Deal with Driving Anxiety. Retrieved from hypnosis.edu.

Zakhareuski, A. (2019, Nov.) 6 Key Steps to Help You Get Over the Fear of Driving. Retrieved from driving-tests.org.

Goodman, K. (n.d.) Overcoming the Fear of Driving. Retrieved from adaa.org.

How to not be nervous while driving (Useful tips)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.