While some people love nothing more than getting behind the wheel of their car and heading off for a drive, for others, driving is more of a necessity to get from A to B - an experience they’d rather avoid.
It might be because they’ve had a bad experience, such as being involved in an accident, or simply because they’re lacking confidence or breadth of experience in different driving conditions. Some drivers may fear one situation in particular, such as joining motorways, driving over bridges or the trapped feeling of getting stuck in heavy traffic.
Some may also feel anxious if they’re getting back behind the wheel after a long break from driving. So, what can you do if your fear of driving is limiting your enjoyment of getting behind the wheel?
Refresh your skills to grow your confidence
Improving or refreshing your skills behind the wheel can really help you become a more confident driver and overcome any doubts you’re having.
Take it slowly and remember there is no need to rush into it. You could start by heading somewhere quiet and local to practice your driving, or perhaps it’s just a particular manoeuvre. For example, you might want to find a quiet time of day to head to a car park and practice parallel or reverse parking. These are famously one of the most challenging tasks in driving. You could also find it helpful to go with someone who can sit along side you and offer support.
If you’re feeling particularly nervous, it may be worth going a step further and taking some extra lessons. Find a driving instructor with experience of teaching anxious drivers who can empathise with your difficulties. And of course, it always helps to ask around to see if you can get any recommendations.
Prepare your car
Is your car chock-full of junk and in need of some TLC? If so, it might not be the most relaxing environment in which to face your fears.
Why not take some time to ensure your car is comfortable and as safe as possible. Ditch any rubbish or junk that could distract you, or even get in the way and be dangerous. Make your driving experience as joyful as possible.
Other simple steps towards creating a happier and safer driving experience include:
Take the time to make sure your seat and seat belt are secure and comfortable.
Familiarise yourself with the controls and dashboard. It can be stressful and dangerous if you’re not sure how to use the lights or windscreen wipers, for example, if you need them when you’re driving.
Keep up with essential car maintenance, such as checking your tyre condition and pressure, and ensuring your fuel and oil is topped up. You’ll be safer and can feel more confident with the knowledge your car is well maintained.
Plan your journeys
Planning ahead can really help to remove the stress from car journeys. It’s also a great way of helping you to stay calm and feel in control.
Be sure to identify the easiest, least stressful route. For example, you can stick to roads that you know well, or plan a route that avoids situations you're not comfortable with, such as motorway driving. Try using google maps, or a sat nav in the car – so you have some guidance on the route – make sure you’re comfortable using these though otherwise they could be more distraction. I don’t go anywhere without checking the best route first.
You may also want to avoid driving at night, in rush hour traffic, or bad weather - so check the forecast before you leave.
It’s also important too to allow plenty of time for your journey. If you’re in a rush it can make things even more stressful, especially if you hit traffic and are delayed.
When you’re driving, it’s really important that you can give it your utmost concentration. So, as part of your planning, think about how to diminish any distractions.
Switch your phone off, or if you rely on it as a satnav, turn it onto a setting where you won’t be distracted by alerts constantly pinging away.
You might also want to avoid driving with other people in the car while you’re building your confidence, unless they’re a trusted passenger who helps you feel more at ease. If you do have passengers and their conversation distracts you, ask them to stop talking.
If you’re distracted by worries or concerns, you should find a safe place to stop and only carry on driving when you feel ready to.
Learn some relaxation techniques
If you suffer from panic attacks due to your anxiety or fear, then Anxiety UK suggests learning some relaxation techniques. These can help you manage your anxiety.
It might help to try these relaxation techniques from mental health charity Mind. You can use these exercises when you're feeling stressed, busy or worried, whether that’s related to getting behind the wheel, or any other aspect of your life.
Good luck and we hope these few pointers help you build up your driving confidence.