by Ken Goodman, LCSW
fear of driving

It’s easy to understand how a major car accident would cause someone to fear driving, but most driving phobia have nothing to do with accidents.

Here is a list of the top 5 driving fears:

1. Past negative experiences
Car accidents are the most common negative driving experience; and can be the most horrific, but there are others. Driving through a bad storm, being a victim of road rage, getting lost, or having a panic attack can all be traumatic. You may replay the experience in your mind and worry it will happen again. The repetitive thoughts and fears may then cause the person to avoid driving, only making the anxiety worse.

2. Driving outside of one’s comfort zone… alone
For some driving phobics, driving to a familiar location is no big deal. But give them directions to a new location, near or far, and their anxiety goes through the sunroof.

What if I get lost? What if my car runs out of gas? What if my cell phone gets no reception? What if I can’t find a parking spot?

It is not just the fear that something bad will happen, it is the fear that something bad will happen in an unfamiliar place, far from home, and no one will be there to help.

3. Fear of having symptoms of anxiety and being trapped
Being stuck in traffic is an irritant no one likes, but if you have a fear of panic attacks traffic can be a terrifying experience. People with a history of panic attacks tend to avoid situations where they can’t get out quickly, including freeways and left turn lanes.

What if I’m stuck traffic and have a panic attack!

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

4. Fear of going too fast and losing control
Feeling the wrath of other drivers for going too slow on the highway, there is pressure to accelerate, but your mind and body won’t let you. Clinching the steering wheel for dear life, your heart races and your body sweats.

The out of control physical symptoms of anxiety make it impossible to trust yourself to drive safely.

The fear of losing control and swerving into another lane is enough to make you drive on surface streets even if takes longer to arrive at your destination.

5. Fear of Fatalities
The basis of all anxiety is an exaggeration of danger and an underestimation of one’s ability. Fearful drivers might not trust their own ability or lack faith in other’s. Either way, they imagine the worst repeatedly. The active imagination of the driving phobic can result in the most gruesome car crashes… in their mind. You don’t have to be a victim of a previous car accident to imagine being in one.

Getting Past the Anxiety

Conquering the fear of driving IS possible but it usually requires help. The gold standard for treatment of any anxiety disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

The first step is to identify your specific fear from the list above.

Then write down all the reasons you want to conquer the fear - why it’s so important. Overcoming any fear means you must face it, which requires a great deal of motivation.

A CBT therapist will help you deal with the thoughts that are causing your physical symptoms and teach you skills to relax your body and quiet your mind. The therapist will also explain the mindset required to face a fear.

Fear of driving affects all aspects of one’s life, from personal to professional. Overcoming this type of anxiety with a qualified professional, will take work and bravery, but it’s well worth, it in the end!

Now available! Recorded ADAA webinar presented by Ken Goodman - Overcoming the Fear of Driving (July 12, 2018). 


About the Author


Ken Goodman, LCSW, treats anxiety and OCD in Los Angeles. He is the author of The Anxiety Solution Series: Your Guide to Overcoming Panic, Worry, Compulsions and Fear, A Step-by-Step Self-help Audio Program, Break Free from Anxiety, a coloring, self-help book for anxiety sufferers, and the Emetophobia Manual, for those who suffer with the fear of vomit.  Ken Goodman is an ADAA board member and Clinical Fellow. Visit Ken's website.



I'm a 60 yr old man who has had this crap since 1997. Before that i was always affraid to let someone else drove so i drove everywhere and enjoyed it. One day going to S.C. to the beach for a week from Ohio, I freaked out going down a mountain white knuckle the wheel and could not finish driving. My wife had to get us there and back. Ive tried all meds. and therapy's with no success. I would lve to drive again on a highway to somewhere nice. how did you do this with yr welcoming the panic?

i have been driving since the age of 17... i went for my bus licence and started driving buses when i was 29.
my dog got knocked over and we rushed him to the vets they couldnt do anything but put him down that killed me... my boss who i worked for had me go into work 2 days later, i wasnt ready to go back to work but my boss was pushy.
thankfully my partner came with me that day and everything was fine up until my last drop off, i felt not well my partner told me to pull over which i did and thankfully i did as when i opend the bus door i fainted. ever since then ive been so scared to drive and i panic, i do go for short drives but i find it difficult to go futher 20miles... ive had no accidents yet the experience i had makes it so hard for me to forget and all i want to do is drive and enjoy it how can i get that bad experience to go

I get really dizzy when driving and it’s worse if I’m by myself, but when I get to where I’m going I’m fine after I walk around a minute and then I feel stupid for having the anxiety so bad .

I’m at my wits end! Anxiety with driving began 15 years ago. I’m now facing major depression, shame, etc. I truly want my life back.

I have always been a driver, I drove for construction and military duty, long distances. I was always really great about taking the family on a road trip to visit others and whatnot, but a few months back I had a crazy anxiety attack in the car with my wife driving a few hours from LA, CA. Ever since then I can't drive over bridges, I have to plan my long distance routes where i feel comfortable. But even today driving to work early AM, i pulled over on the highway, 3 min from work. This is a crazy feeling. I get hot, sweaty, slight dizziness, sweating palms, tunnel vision, but it's only over bridges and over passes, which I used to be just fine, I could drive anywhere...

I have had driving anxiety for years and no longer go on the motorways or A roads only drive on B roads. I had some lessons and together we faced bridges and coming down hill was terrible like feeling I was gonna run of the edge I did this Terrible hard breaking thing especially down hill ! The driving instructor shouted get your foot off the break !! Get it of ! And remain predictable! I love that word and often say it to my self when facing bridges coming down hill ! Remain predictable!!! Low gear let the car run and foot cover the break or hover over it and copy the lights on the car In front.. gently on the break coming down x. I’m all good now coming down hills on B roads bridges saying I’m going to remain predictable ! Xxxx

I also have beeen driving 30 years and its started for me now. I find I'm panicky on dark motorways without street lighting. I feel shaky and light headed like I'm gonna lose control. Like in a wave of anxiety. Just had this tonight and when i stopped at a services i was trembling out of control. A 1 hr 45 min journey took me nearly 4 hours.

I've had this fear of driving alone for 6 years now. I have to have my Bluetooth on talking to someone while I drive. It makes me feel like I'm not totally alone. I feel like I'm going to pass out at the wheel while driving. My heart rate gets scary high and my knuckles grip white on the steering wheel. I'm also scared of being pulled over by the cops. I had a horrible experience with a cop one day due to my getting lost while panicking. He was the rudest most unsympathetic cop I have ever encountered. He acted like he was going to club me because of my panicked crying. He cussed me and threatened to take me to jail for crying. I am a registered nurse, and was working for a hospital in a town I wasn't familiar with when this incident occurred. I got into trouble with this horrid cop because I got lost and he didn't want to fool with me. This is when all the fear of driving started. I know how awful this is. My heartfelt empathy for all those suffering from this debilitating anxiety.

Report that person in the guise of a law enforcement worker /( public servant). Obviously there isn't much between the ears.
Next your an RN and likely due to type of work you do it is possible you have P.T.S.D.
Make sure that cop is reported to the police commission with vivid details. Needs to be removed from public service. Shameful treatment.
I am sorry you had to have such a terrible encounter such as you have had .
Seek professional assistance and you will be fine.
Infantry Vet

that is the same thing that happens to me but also feel very sick and like I need to use the bathroom. i feel so pathetic because I will not drive any free ways and people get upset with me like why are you so scared and in all reality i do not know

mine occurred the same way , I’ve been going on car rides and in cars my whole life now all of sudden I start having panic attacks while I’m in them and I start having trouble breathing and feeling like I’m boxed in


It was exactly the same with me!! After 20 years of driving everywhere all of a sudden I had a panic attack during driving in 2016. Since then I’m terrified that it will happen again and I avoid driving. It completely effects and shatters my whole life and I feel trapped.

I recently got in a small fender bender that was my fault. Sucks, stupid FL drivers... wasn’t really even my fault... but the worst part is my anxiety about driving has 100% returned. I feel the need to put the car in park while at a red light in fear of slipping again. My shoe lace got stuck and I couldn’t break.

I am hoping I don’t go back into having full panic attacks, where I have to pull the car over and feel like I may die. I feel your situation and understand unfortunately how you feel. Guess its at least nice to know im not alone:)

I understand how a driving g incident can make you nervous for future driving. I am nervous about after getting a ticket for passing a bus with flashing red lights and supposedly me and 5 others did it...and police stopped me. Gave me a ticket. Long story short I would never pass a bus stopped never one with flashing g red lights . And how could 6 drivers all do the same thing? Perhaps fr where the officer was it appeared that way .idk. but my husband called his cousin in the same station and asked him to ask the other officer to not process the ticket. He did the favor. Now I have extreme anxiety everytime I suppose to drive thru that town. I am over the top with anxiety. What it's...I try to do it myself thru it..but it's always present. Its overflowing g into me being nervous to driving period. I hate this. Gods word tells us that fear is a liar. This kind anyway. I am looking for an online support group (free) where ppl that understand and still push past it encouraging one another. But so far no luck.

I kinda get the same sort of feelings but I think you just gotta push be strong it’s all in the mind mate it’s get better

I feel the same way it's horrible feeling and its 99% of the time when I get in vechicle or someone else is driving feels like I'm trapped and cant breath and same thing I've had to pull over and get out of the vechicle to catch my breath feeling like I couldn't breath even tho I was. It's horrible and I'm glad I read this and someone else can relate.

Same here! I am rushed with crippling anxiety just thinking about getting in the drivers seat 😭😭

I know exactly how you feel. Same here and it is so hard to explain to others.

I used to drive long distances, no problem. Also, driving 45 minutes to see friends or kids was a habitual thing. Now, I dislike driving together. I tell myself that it's because I've driven everywhere all my life, but now it's to a point it has become debilitating. I have anxiety disorder and MDD, but never had it for driving. This fear keeps me from many things I NEED to do.

Wow I’m 16 and I feel you on some levels????? I just got my permit yesterday and had TERRRIBLE ANXIETY taking the test and had anxiety attacks and shaking until I finally fell asleep. But I could not sleep for the dear life of me? Today I drove to the store for the first time and I have no idea how to explain how I felt. I just have terrible,terrible anxiety. I feel like I’m in the car but like I am not. I feel so dizzy and my eye sockets hurt. I try to focus on the road as much as I can and do all these things at the same time, but I forget to some things and it gives me more anxiety. I don’t know how to explain it? I feel like I could just easily get in a car crash . I don’t trust myself to drive. I feel like I would repulsively do something crazy like drive super fast and purposely crash....? I need help but I don’t know. I have always dreamed of finally driving but I have ALWAYS been afraid. I don’t trust myself and I am extremely terrified. It’s just such an out-of-the-world experience/feeling?... i don’t know if I want to drive again...I just don’t know what the heck to do with myself. I am still shaking and very anxious. Since yesterday I haven’t calmed down....anyway sorry for the long comment.

It's out mind that needs supervision not us. Our mind is running crazy, it's like having pets who are getting out of the cage and doing whatever they want to do. It is our responsibility to get things into their place. Yes, easier said than done, but, there is hope. First step, we gotta stop thinking big picture from this point of space and moment in time. What we need to is, take one step at a time and it means, thinking about it from day to day. Don't think what could happen in the future, just today. Ask yourself, what can I do today to feel just a little better about my driving? So far, I have driven pretty good. Maybe I had some faults, but that's okay, we all learn on our mistakes, it's okay, we are allowed to make mistakes, it's how we learn, it's part of the process. The most important step for taming the mind is meditation. It is how we get into control of our mind instead our mind rushing around without our consent. It takes time, but remember, step by step. Do relaxing meditation and when you feel absolutely relaxed bring into your mind picture of finished act. Imagine yourself getting out of the car happy, peacefully, feel content, feel proud of yourself, c'mon you know how it feels, be proud of yourself, stick to that feeling, feel in peace, look at your car how nice and shiny it is. Hear slamming of the doors, hear clicking of the keys, feel fresh wind and warm sun as you step out of the car, feel how the air feels so liberating and refreshing. Look at your car again, be proud how you did it, agin, for the thousandth time, smile, yes, smile to yourself, do it now in the meditation, oh! It feels so great, yes! Oh, it feels so... so good! It's good to be alive, it's good to feel this freedom! You are free, you feel free, it's so so liberating. Stil smiling? Smile again, look at your reflection, see how beautiful and happy you look, it's how you feel inside, too! You are looking at the victor, you are the winner, you are the conqueror, you did it, yes, you! You are strong, you are powerful! Breath in again, breath this fresh air! Look at that car. it's your buddy, your tool and you are the master, you are operating it! You have the power, feel that. It's such a wonderful invention! And you are the one who is driving it. You are wonderful driver, you always arrive everywhere safely. You know all the rules, you are confident, just look at your reflection, look how you're standing tall. That's you! You are the great driver, you are the safe driver. Now take a long breath in and breath out and feel free, feel proud, feel happy, feel confident, feel relaxed. Feel holding your car keys in your hand relaxed. Yes, you did it. Okay, this is one example how you could tailor your wished goal, how you can feel the reality of it. If you do this every night, no exception, just for two months, before going to sleep, I would love to hear from you again and probably drive with you if you were closer to me (I'm in Europe so I'm assuming you're in the USA). If possible, do it also in the morning too. Commit everything to it, just feel it. During the day when unwanted thoughts start coming, just remember the scene and the feeling, you have to feel it, recall how you feel once you succeeded. Focus on it, do it deliberately, put all energy to it. If you feel you lost it, you can't recall the feeling and feel overwhelmed, that's okay, let it be and let it go. Say to yourself that it's okay, that you know everything, you just started, it's getting better day by day. Hey, you passed the exam! I personally know people who took the test four times and so what? No big deal. Just relax before going for a drive. imagine yourself at the destination feeling good. And when you arrive to your destination congratulate yourself, be proud because you did it! Oh, you see? You're getting better at it. just go day by day. You did it for today, okay? You're doing it wonderfully. Take small steps, relax, be the one in control. Work on it. You see, our mind is untamed, and it's a full-time work to put it under little bit control. Don't put yourself down because you failed here and there, it's normal. Keep going, keep pushing. Don't let fear intimidate you, I know you can do it. I love you, I know how you feel because that's how I felt. I took driving licence test and didn't drive for 3 years, drove it few times, and came winter and I said, I don't want it now and made another pause for two years. I was crippled without the car, I was mad at myself because I had to go by foot in the heavy rain, and when it was very windy, I was frustrated because I had to loose so much time when using public transport and plus be surrounded with so many unknown people. But once I conquered those fears, I cannot explain how I feel free, liberated and grateful. It's whole new world for me. Yes, there are all kinds of drivers, who will honk because they have different driving style or are inpatient, mad, but who knows what is happening in their life, they maybe are left by someone, maybe they are in a hurry because their wife is in a labor, who could now? And second thing, you have the same right to be on the road as they are! Use your right! So what if they think "woman is driving" as something undesirable (as is happen to be, I am a woman, I had those fears, that they are monitoring my moves so that I make mistake and they can point out that I am a woman at the steering wheel)? But who cares what they think in that brief moment of time? I don't think about that at all now, I just focus on the road, and where I'm going to. It helps me to focus more on the road, thus relax more (I used to drive totally tensed) which automatically means I drive better. I feel good. It's not important what others are saying, it's important what we want us to say to ourself. Remember that! It is the most important conversation we have in the day- the conversation we have with ourself. It all may sound like a cliche, but try it, what the heck? Give it a month if you can't make it two months, but do it! It helped me. I wish to help you now. I have no idea how I landed on this page and why I'm writing this, but probably it may help someone, someday. I believe in you because I know you can. Because I believed in myself and I did it.

Thank you for your coaching. It made me cry. I recently got a ticket but have always been a good driver. I also have a motorcycle license so I’m very considerate of others. If I were to cause harm to anyone I would not be able to function afterwards. Yours words are truth and I just wanted you to know, you did a good thing. I know if I can imagine the destination and take a step forward I will get my confidence back. When I was a child I would have terrible nightmares to the point of screaming that woke me. One time a big dragon type monster came at me and I had enough! Instead of running away, I turned around and screamed at the monster and it vanished. As they say it’s like falling off a horse, get right back on and take it easy and keep going. I just feel right now that I’m defying death each time I drive. I thank God each time I return home or make it to my destination. I’ve been driving for 43 years and been feeling like this for 2 weeks. I had to keep driving after the ticket because my husband just had surgery and depends on me to take him to therapy. Every time I see a police car I panic and think they are going to get me again. CBD also helps. I can recommend “CBDmd” oil drops, Quartz Trading Company drops/tincture and best of all Nasadiol which is a nose spray. Higher the mg fewer drops to take. It really does help but you don’t really notice the effect like a Xanax and it doesn’t make you feel like you crave it later. Plus the drops can be applied to weird bumps on skin and cures toothaches. It cured some kind of spot on my face that I’ve had for years and could not get rid of. I just need to remember to use it. The Nasadiol spray helps with Migraines and sinus infections. If I get on a sugar binge, I take some drops and it kills the yeast build up in my gut and the sugar cravings stop. I didn’t mean for this to turn out to praise CBD but I saw a few people asking about it. But really the coaching was so appreciated and I love you too because you care! B

Hi there. I drove today for the first time in my life in a big city; and I am feeling exactly like you. I am 27 and I can't stop shaking. I've always imagined myself driving and I just got my first car, but it is horribly stressful!! It is so frustrating because I imagine crashing or hitting someone all the time:( I know that I need to practice more, but my heart still racing and my hear hurts.

I'm reading your post now and feel exactly the same. I was curious as to whether all this time later you've managed to overcome the fear. I don't have the best teacher (my ex husband) and he gets very annoyed with me for driving to slow, stalling the car, etc... but I feel so panicked driven my mind stops working and I don't know what to do its like a mental breakdown where I forget everything I'm supposed to do. I have my licence but I'm not ready to drive I feel as its so scary I'm glad I found this thread because I feel so ashamed and scared about feeling this way which just boosts my anxiety levels even more :(

This happens to me as well. I am bipolar and have very similar symptoms. It sounds to me like psychosis, which can be mild (almost daydreamy) to very severe (a complete loss of reality). I’ve learned with me that my anxiety, depression and psychosis are all intertwined. Meditation and yoga have helped me control my anxiety and helped me control the separation from reality by connecting my mind with my body. I hope this helps! Good luck! ❤️

Man i cant even explain just how much i understand you . its like everything you feel and fear i undertstand its everything i feel . i hated it i want to drive . i want to be independent. I pray to God to fix my mind just so i can be able to drive . im tired going to that other place when im about to drive , wanna drive , got behind the weel and still couldn't do it . im over it !

Jacquelyn Augi…

October 2, 2017

I feel disabled, being afraid to drive to different and new places. Can't drive out of town, don't get up and go. I feel so limited. I've been driving for 16 years, 1 accident, hit from behind which made things worse.

Rollover at 16 (would have died if i was wearing my seat belt. Instead walked away with back and knee issues plus slight vehicular anxiety)

Struck by truck at 20 while riding my bike on the sidewalk(light damage to my knee no hospital visit, much more cautious when outside)

21, 17 weeks pregnant struck by truck in cross walk rushed to er (scrapes and brusies sore all over my daughter was safe and sound, i cant even cross the road or get into a car without major anxiety attacks)

Hi Gloria,
Just look for a therapist that offers cognitive therapy. Search under “counselors,” “therapists” or “psychologists” or look for counseling centers. When you call for information, ask if they offer CBT (cognitive behavior therapy).