Five tips to defeat driving fear

Tuesday, January 3 2017

You are in your car driving to work. Your pulse is accelerated and your hands are tightly clenched on the wheel. You are sweating and having thoughts of getting into a collision or losing control. Arriving at your destination is a relief but getting there is an exhausting endeavor. 

The most common cause of driving fear is car accidents. It’s a traumatic event that no one wants to experience. It can often lead to avoidance behaviors to help escape particular thoughts or feelings. 

Overcome driving fear or anxiety with these helpful tips below. 

  • Calm breathing
  • When you feel anxious you tend to take short, quick, shallow breaths that can actually make you feel more anxious. Diaphragmatic breathing or calm breathing, is a good technique to practice to help relieve these feelings. Calm breathing involves breathing into your lower belly by taking smooth, slow and regular breaths.
  • Start by placing a hand on your abdomen and take a slow breath in through the nose feeling your belly expand as your lungs fill with air. Hold your breath for 1 to 2 seconds before exhaling slowly through the mouth. Repeat for 10 breaths.
  • Positive affirmations
  • Affirmations are simply positive self-talk. Having negative thoughts contributes to negative emotions and experiences. You can break patterns of negative thoughts by repeating an affirmation that is meaningful to you. 
  • Here is an example of a positive affirmation: I am calm and confident. 
  • With affirmations you have the power to eliminate self-defeating words from your mind.


  • Therapeutic distraction techniques, such as listening to your favorite music, podcast, or engaging in conversation with a passenger, can help you stay calm while driving. Distraction is a safe behavior but a reasonable short-term therapeutic goal. 
  • Focus on the positive 
  • Along with positive affirmations, it is good practice to focus on the positive aspects of driving. Instead of focusing on what scares you, focus on what makes you feel safe. Acknowledge good behavior from other drivers, rather than their mistakes, think about the freedom you have to travel where you like, and the ability to schedule your own time without having to rely on others.
  • Graded exposure 

Occupational therapists can help people overcome fears or anxiety with the use of graded exposure. Graded exposure can help people to re-engage in aspects of driving they are avoiding.  It is a way of gradually exposing yourself to driving situations from least fearful to most feared.For most of us, driving is increasingly necessary for our daily lives. Whether you are in the driver’s seat or a passenger, you do not need to suffer distress.

You can defeat driving fear; use these tips or seek help from our highly qualified occupational therapists.