Driving anxiety: how to reduce stress on the road

If you are a nervous driver, those butterflies don’t disappear the moment you pass your test. Plenty of new drivers still have some driving anxiety. It could be roundabouts, or hill starts. Maybe the thought of driving on the motorway puts you on edge. Or perhaps you’ve had a break from driving, and you’re nervous about getting back behind the wheel.

Here are FirstCar’s tips for overcoming driving anxiety…

1: Face your fears

Whatever causes your driving anxiety, avoiding it won’t help. So if you’ve been turning left around the block so you don’t have to make a right turn, you need to practise turning right. Just like when you were learning to drive, when you would practise a new skill until you nailed it, face up to the driving situation that causes your anxiety.

2: Understand the problem

Try to separate your anxiety and the particular driving situation that you find difficult. Let’s say reverse parking makes your palms sweat. Picture yourself executing a perfect park. Imagine your instructor is still beside you, and hear their voice talking you through the manoeuvre.

There are plenty of YouTube guides to different aspects of learning to drive. Just because you have passed your test there’s no shame in watching them again.

Rebuild your skills and knowledge and your confidence should follow.

3: You’re not alone

Driving alone can be a thrill, but can also lead to driving anxiety. Talk to a friend or family member about your nerves, ideally someone patient who has many years of driving experience behind them. Ask them to come with you on a drive. Knowing you are not on your own can help you face your fears and gradually overcome them.

4: Focus on the here and now

You are on a long journey. At the other end of the drive is a tricky multi-lane roundabout you really hate. It’s on your mind from the moment you set off.

Try to put the situation to the back of your mind. You need to be in the moment when driving, concentrating on what’s going on around you now, not something you’ll be dealing with in an hour’s time.

The harder you concentrate on the here and now the less room there will be for anxious thoughts to distract you.

5: Don’t stop learning

If driving is making you edgy, think about taking some more lessons.

There are specific post-test schemes like Pass Plus, and some road safety organisations offer confidence-boosting courses for drivers who are nervous or out of practice.

If you get on well with your instructor, give them a call and explain what aspect of driving is making you nervous. Ask about booking an extra lesson or two so you can break the hoodoo and put your driving anxiety behind you.

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