Social Question

partyrock's avatar

How can I get over my fear of driving and finally get a license?

Asked by partyrock (3865 points ) January 13th, 2012

I’m 22 and barely getting my license right now and learning how to drive. It’s taken me this long but I’m really scared to drive. I think it’s because I would not have a lot of control. I’m scared of getting into an altercation with another driver, or getting into a car crash. Or things like if I run out of gas on the highway.

I’ve made way so far by taking the bus, walking, getting rides from friends, taking taxis, or riding a bike.

I live in LA so whenever I tell anyone I don’t know how to drive, it’s really embarrassing. I don’t know why I have this fear since most kids nowadays get their license at 15 or 16 years old.

I want to get over this fear I have.

I’m pretty brave with other things in my life, like with photojournalism and being in the Army. I don’t know why it’s taken my this long to barely how to drive though.

I keep on putting off taking my written test to, for the permit.

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31 Answers

partyrock's avatar

It’s something that I know I need to do and get over… But with even going to take the written test for the permit I’ve been procrastinating it… I’m usually in a lot of control if I travel another way like buses,taxies,friends,etc. I’m not even afraid of flying, or traveling any other ways… It’s just driving.

You never know what to expect driving and I think that’s one thing that scares me. When I had my ex boyfriend he would drive us around everywhere and I was OK with that, but now that I just turned 22 I really need to get over this fear.

partyrock's avatar

My parents have always pushed me to get it and my friends make fun of me for not knowing how to drive, but I’ve never had an interest in it. How can I get over this anxiety of driving?

jrpowell's avatar

Welcome to my world. If you switch LA with Portland/Eugene we have the same story. The other difference is I am 35 and have never had a license. Mostly out of fear of other drivers (drivers even scare me when I cross the street) and cost. I have saved a lot of money over the last 20 years and I can still get laid without driving a car a bank owns.

AmWiser's avatar

All your fears are valid and you may need to seek help in overcoming them. Their are many sites that you can Google regarding ‘fear of driving’. Look them up, you may find something to help you.

partyrock's avatar

@johnpowell – I get scared of crossing the street too sometimes. I’m afraid of the financial cost if I ever got into an accident. Or have someone hit my car. Stuff like that. I’ve gotten by fairly well without a car… But now I know I need to get it….

Not having a car has hindered me from doing things…. it’s made things harder like,

going to work on time, or just hanging out with friends, etc.

john65pennington's avatar

What about private driving lessons? Many people, in your situation, use this means of passing a drivers test.

partyrock's avatar

@AmWiser – Thank you. I did google “Why am I afraid of driving” and it looks like there are a lot of people who are scared.

partyrock's avatar

@john65pennington – Do you mean like going to a driving school, or having a friend teach me?

john65pennington's avatar

Private school. There are some excellent schools that will help you get your drivers license. Did you say you were in the Army?

john65pennington's avatar

You and my mother are in the same boat. She is deceased now, but on two occasions, I attempted to teach her how to drive an automobile. She finally gave up and my dad took her wherever she wanted to go.

My mother was a co-dependent person and I am wondering if this is the same case as you?

AmWiser's avatar

@partyrock, I had no ideal it was so common and that’s why I left it up to you to research. Once you get over your fear I hope you can look back on this and give others some good advice.;-) Good luck.

HungryGuy's avatar

Don’t let your friends beat you up over it. I have a license, but I live in an urban area and use mass transit most of the time. Sometimes weeks go by without me getting behind the wheel.

partyrock's avatar

@john65pennington – Yes I was. But I never got my license before or after then, never had to.

partyrock's avatar

@HungryGuy – My friends don’t really make fun of me over it, it’s just when I’m talking to new people and I have to explain that I don’t know how to drive, well.. it’s embarrassing. Especially for such a big city like Los Angeles.

Paradox25's avatar

I had this fear when I first learned to drive. It wasn’t the driving itself but the thought of dealing with other traffic that got me. I live in a rural area so it was mandatory that I get my license. I also learnt to drive on a manual shift.

The only way to get over this is to practice (if you can) driving in a smaller area that you’re comfortable with than gradually working your way up by driving through towns. Finally you will have to practice on the highway. The fear does gradually start to go away the more you do it. Also, think of many people who don’t drive since this may help to give you a confidence boost too. I know quite a few guys who don’t drive so don’t feel bad.

reijinni's avatar

Can’t help, hadn’t got around to a license myself.

zenvelo's avatar

Can you get a friend to take you to a large empty parking lot and practice just a little? You mention fear of lack of control, but as the driver you will be in control, and if you drive prudently and defensively you will most likely never get in an accident. One purpose of driving lessons is to get confidence.

When I was just short of 40 years driving experience, I took a Skip Barber driving course for the day, and I would recommend their full weekend course to anyone who drives. They teach you how to drive in dangerous circumstances, how to get yourself out of a problem like skidding out of control, and how to use the car to protect yourself from hazards.

As far as the fear of financial disaster if there is an accident, that’s why you have insurance. And your insurance rates will be relatively low since you got your license late: insurance companies know you will be careful.

Jeruba's avatar

In my case, what it took was something that scared me even worse than driving.

By the time I was 40 I’d had plenty of time to work up a whole lot more terror than you can muster at 22. Even having young children hadn’t motivated me enough.

Then one day I found myself confronted by having to take a trip I didn’t want to make. The idea of getting on that plane scared me so badly that I said “Right now driving lessons don’t look so bad!”

So I promised myself I would not have another birthday before getting my license. That very week I signed up with a driving school.

It took me about 4 times the usual number of driving lessons, with an excellent and very patient teacher, and I failed my first test. But I made it before my birthday.

It was another year before I stopped being a nervous wreck behind the wheel. And I’m still not as much at ease as, say, my (now grown) children, who took to it naturally. But I’ve never had an accident, and I’ve been pulled over and warned only twice. So I’d say I’m good.

L.A. is a damned scary place to drive, from what I’ve seen. Nothing will ever induce me to try it. So I don’t blame you one bit. But people do it. My cousins who live in L.A. told me (on one harrowing ride) that the thing to do when you want to merge is pretend you don’t see the other drivers, just as they’re pretending not to see you, and then go ahead and move in.

Keep_on_running's avatar

I was like you too. A couple of years ago I said to myself, you know what, I am just going to do it. I mustered up the courage somehow and completed the theory test and got my learner’s permit. I started driving lessons with my dad. I did about 6 or 7. Fast-forward two years and I haven’t done any since. I decided that driving isn’t really for me. I weighed up the pros and cons and thought, nup I don’t think I want to do this kind of thing.

Don’t worry so much about it. Think of how much healthier you are walking and cycling instead and you’re not polluting the environment either. It can actually be a blessing in disguise too because once you start driving you’ll probably start to make a lot more trips to get fast-food, now that you can get there so conveniently.

JLeslie's avatar

Being agraid to drive is a very common fear, esoecially among people with anxiety disorders, but even people who are not anxiety ridden can have a fear of driving. Part of the reason you are afraid is because you don’t do it regularly, you aren’t driving so you maintain your fear about it.

Most people feel they have more control driving than public transportation. They can get in their car and go whenever they want. On public transportation you are completely dependent on the driver driving your bus, or even then subway/train operator not falling asleep at the switch.

You just have to start doing it more, it is classic phobia, and typically phobia is overcome by exposure to the very thing you fear most, and having good experiences where nothing bad happens. Maybe take a trip with a friend to a less populated place and drive where there is less traffic at first, so you feel more in control of the car. Practice really does matter when driving. Most people cannot line up their car in a parking spot without practice. At first it is not uncommon to think you are 6 inches from a parking spot line, and you are actually two feet away. At first it can feel odd to rely on mirrors to know what is around you, after time it becomes very comfortable. The problem for new drivers is they have to think a lot about what they are doing, but over time it becomes very natural.

At the same time, I know plenty of people who don’t have their licenses because they live in cities where they will never drive. But, I think it is good to know how to drive, in case of an emergency, or if you want to travel to the countryside.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I don’t have any good advice, because I am terrified of driving. I avoid it as much as possible. I didn’t want to get my license (though, I did, when I was 18.) So… just in case it makes you feel better, you aren’t alone. :)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You can live in a cave, never take a chance or a risk, and live a long and boring life. Driving is just like that. It takes you wherever you want, but you take a few chances. Start with a defensive driving course and learn how to deal with the idiots on the road.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I agree with the posters who advise practicing in a real car on a big open lot. Maybe you can try the Rose Bowl parking lot when it’s mostly emptied. Practice getting the car pulled in and out of the parking space lines, nose in, backing in, parallel parking, etc.

In L.A., the roads aren’t very good so you won’t be having to perform like speed racer to merge onto fwys or to change lanes. Start on the older fwys like Hollywood fwy that have fewer and narrow lanes, a bit slower moving traffic so you can get a feel for how people move their cars from lane to lane.

As far as expense, if you can stick to a car that a few years old then you can hold less than full coverage insurance. It’s a gamble as far as covering your own vehicle if you become at fault for an accident but at least you will be covered for uninsured and other party drivers.

jerv's avatar

Personally, I didn’t get my license until I was 26. Before 19, I was worried about my temper leading to road rage, then I spent a few years in the Navy, which would make a car a waste since there is little parking for E4 and below, and I was away from land too much to get much use from a car.

This may sound crazy, but some video games actually help you get the basics. They teach you the dangers of excessive speed, and other things about how cars handle. By the time I actually got behind the wheel (in a snowy field), I already knew how to avoid giving it too much gas for the bad conditions that you likely will never see, and that the brake pedal stops the wheels but may not actually stop the car. Having a sense of how long it takes to stop and how hard you can turn the steering wheel before running into issues are also important things video games taught me.

If you can walk across the street without getting hit, you already have enough situational awareness to not cause an accident. Just avoid tailgating and you can also avoid accidents caused by others in front of you.

Running out of gas is unlikely unless you are totally oblivious. I drive 50–75 miles a day and a full tank lasts me about four days. Two fill-ups a week is enough for me, so it’s not an everyday thing. Cars have this nice little gauge that lets you know how much gas you have, and so long as you don’t let it get below ¼, running out of gas is nearly impossible; for most cars, that is enough for at least 50 miles, or for quite a while stuck in gridlock. The only times i have ever run out were when I was pushing my luck the day before payday and was too broke to comply with that ¼-tank rule. Unless you are poor enough to be eating nothing but Ramen noodles everyday, you can probably afford to keep enough in your tank to stay out of trouble.

Above all, remember that driving is safer than bicycling. You have managed to not get killed on your bike, so you should do just fine with four wheels and a ton of metal surrounding/protecting you.

Lastly, if you are not afraid, then there is something wrong. It’s the people who drive without fear that cause accidents. People like the street-racer who thinks that they won’t get killed doing 120 mph as they cut across three lanes, or the person who thinks nothing bad will happen if they take their hands of the wheel to apply makeup. Fear is healthy; it keeps you alert to danger and it’s easier to avoid danger that you are aware of than danger that is hidden. Just learn to use that fear constructively. My wife is always scared to death, and that makes her safer behind the wheel than I am (I am merely nervous behind the wheel).

Jeruba's avatar

Good point, @jerv, that last one. The first time my driving instructor guided me onto the freeway (280 north from San Jose), I could almost feel my hair stand up, and I had to fight blind panic. When I recovered enough composure to speak (that is, to say anything other than “yikes!” and “sh*t”), I gestured ahead of me and asked, “Are all those other guys scared too?”

My teacher replied calmly, “If they’re smart, they are.”

It helps to remember that. First, I’m not the only one, and second, I’m on the road at 70 mph with a bunch of scared people.

JLeslie's avatar

About being afraid, there is various levels. Someone who is so afraid they are on their brake when they should not be, like the Q we once had where a jelly asked about braking before crossing intersections when she has the green, because she was afraid of being crashed into from a car running a red (not to be confused with hesitating a moment on the change from red to green when stopped at a traffic light). That type of fear isn’t good. Safe road traffic relies on people following the rules of the road, which includes being predictable in your actions. When you do something no one expects there is a risk involved. At the same time I agree a little fear is good, which I equate with being prudent, and the reality that every so often, but rarely, someone next to you will do something unpredictable.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie True, it is possible for your fears to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your caution disrupts the flow of traffic, then there will be a problem. For instance, traveling less than 5MPH over the speed limit in the left lane of the interstate (or 15 over in Eastern MA!) may result in a multi-car accident. Sure, it’s illegal to speed, but guess whose fault it is if a crash occurs? Hint; it’s not the 372 people behind you traveling at flow-of-traffic speeds with proper lane discipline. (@john65pennington Read Tennessee Code 55–8-115(b); other states have similar laws.) And if there is no crash, it’s still a pretty hefty fine for impeding traffic. If you won’t go fast, stay right!

Like I said, use your fear constructively.

HungryGuy's avatar

@jerv – Now, that contradicts everything I’ve been told about driving. From driver ed and other sources, I’ve always been taught that you are responsible for not hitting what’s in front of you. And you’re not responsible for the people behind you, because they’re responsible for not hitting you. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but just that it contradicts what I’ve learned.

Unless there’s drugs or alcohol involved, in which case whoever is drunk is responsible for the accident, even if they were standing a mile away just observing through binoculars.

jerv's avatar

@HungryGuy That is where it gets funny. While it is your responsibility to not hit the guy in front of you, it is also your responsibility to not make the people behind you swerve into other lanes. Put another way, if obstructing traffic thusly wasn’t a problem then explain why keep right laws exist in most states.

zenvelo's avatar

@jerv There is a difference between impeding traffic and liability for causing an accident. Running into someone, no matter how slow they are traveling, is a violation of the Basic Speed Law: never drive faster than is safe.

But @partyrock will be a safe conscientious driver, so this isn’t really an issue.

jerv's avatar

@zenvelo True; @partyrock will probably keep right.

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