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SergeantQueen's avatar

What helps with driving anxiety?

Asked by SergeantQueen (11751points) October 14th, 2020

No clue how I am ever going to get my license because every time I am in the drivers seat I shake so badly and I panic when other cars pass me. It’s the hardest thing for me to do.

Not getting it isn’t ideal because I don’t leave near bus stops.

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24 Answers

jca2's avatar

If you’re very nervous and shaky, I don’t see how you’re going to be able to drive competently.

Jeruba's avatar

I was a very nervous learner, so much so that I dropped driver ed. while in school and then put it off until I was 40 and had young children.

A patient teacher was one big help. I paid a driving school for about twice as many hours as the supposedly average student takes. Instructor Paul gave me a lot of tips and watchwords that I still follow years later.

He went with me for my test (although he wasn’t in the car with me), and when I failed it, he made me go right back a week later and gave me extra coaching in between.

Another thing that helped was to really concentrate on what I was doing, especially with moves I was scared about: merging onto freeways, changing lanes. No conversation, no yelling kids, no sightseeing—just a single focus. When my kids were in the car and I said “I’m concentrating,” they shut right up because they did not want to get us killed.

I did use the radio to help occupy the part of my mind that wanders so I could keep the pertinent functions in the forefront of my awareness. That was probably a personal dynamic and not a general principle.

I’m still a nervous driver. I will go twice the distance for the sake of a simple route (measured mostly in number of turns) and frequently take a slow surface route to avoid freeways. I think my anxiety about driving helps me pay attention. I never get complacent. I also never go very far: about an hour, or an hour and a half maximum, and I’m used up.

I also have a terror of getting lost.

But I’ve never had an accident, and my only close call really and truly was the other guy, trying to merge directly into the side of my car while I held steady at the speed limit. I stepped on the gas and jumped ahead, and he honked and cursed at me.

Sometimes I have to talk out loud to myself in the car. “I can do this” comes up a lot, and also “Take your time, take your time.”. I also sometimes voice my opinions about other drivers, although without yelling or swearing or using any particular fingers, which I think only increase agitation. I’ll just quietly say, for example, “Don’t bother to signal, you dodo,” or “No reason why you shouldn’t cut in front of me right here even though I was last in line and there are a dozen cars in front of us and there’s a red light.” Things like that.

I also remind myself all the time: “I’m out here with sick people, crazy people, angry people, old people, young people, drunk people, loaded people, stupid people, people who are driving for the first time, people who are driving without a license, people who are more nervous than I am, adrenaline junkies, and people who don’t give a damn. I have to watch out for all of them.”

And I never, ever drive while intoxicated or (hardly ever) while angry.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Take a drivers course.

janbb's avatar

^^ Yes. I agree. Don’t practice with a family member. Take lessons with a driving school. They’ve seen it all.

SergeantQueen's avatar

I don’t really have that kind of money or time right now, the commitment the school needs (I have looked) interferes way too much with work/school for me. And it just costs too much for me right now.

I put the car in park in the middle of the road while backing out because I panicked. No one was coming thankfully.

Jeruba's avatar

Does your school offer driver ed. free or at a lower cost?

Do you have someone you can practice with who won’t yell at you? Not a boyfriend and preferably not a parent. And not anyone who will start screaming “You killed my car! You killed my car!” in the middle of an intersection.

Is there someplace nearby with a large parking lot (such as a business that’s closed on Sunday) where you can drive around without bumping into anything?

jca2's avatar

Who is teaching you presently, @SergeantQueen? Who was with you when you put the car in park in the middle of the road?

KNOWITALL's avatar

Try a cemetary. For real thats where my mom took me, as I was nervous too. I only passed by two points on my test due to nerves ha!
I also have a perfect record and am an excellent driver, so you can do it! :)

stanleybmanly's avatar

I don’t understand why you are so isolated sarge. Where are your buddies? You’re 19. Have you no driving friends or relatives with whom you might practice? Surely there must be someone with both the patience and disposition to help you out.

SergeantQueen's avatar

My grandparents have been but they are busy, so my dad has been. My mom won’t. I could ask friends I guess and see.

I don’t know @Jeruba I would have to look around more

Yes I was at the school for a while

SergeantQueen's avatar

practicing at school parking lot*

JLeslie's avatar


When you first start driving you have to concentrate and think a lot. When you drive over and over again so much is automatic that it’s much less stressful.

You always have to concentrate on the road, but eventually you get so used to your car it’s like a part of you. At least usually that happens. With my husband’s truck I never feel like that because it’s so big and I only drive it once in a while.

Which parts of driving make you the most nervous? Staying in lane? Making turns? Parking? Driving fast? My sister is terrible at knowing where she is in the lane for instance. I took her to a parking lot and had her pull into a space, open her door, and see how close or far she was from the white line painted on the ground. Eventually, she started to learn how to align her car. Practiced it driving straight into a space from far away or turning into a space.

You mentioned cars passing you, are you afraid you’ll crash? Or, you aren’t going fast enough? Don’t turn your head and look at the car. Your car will tend to go the direction you look, especially when you first start driving. Keep your eyes where you need to go with quick glances to look in your mirrors and check your blind spot when changing lanes.

I agree with everyone above who suggested driving school. You might be able to pay for a few lessons without some sort of full course if that’s all you need. Driving with family can be very stressful.

Are you driving a manual/clutch car? Are you driving a large car?

SergeantQueen's avatar

@JLeslie Pretty much worried about everything you mentioned.

It’s my dads truck and it has a lever I have to use to put it into drive and all that, what is that called?

SergeantQueen's avatar

A truck like a pick up.

JLeslie's avatar

@SergeantQueen A big pick-up truck where you are way high off the ground?

If you put the car in drive then it’s automatic. That’s good.

Driving a smaller car would probably help. If his truck is like my truck then you have little leeway in your lane and when parking, and your ability to see what’s immediately around you is more difficult. You have a better view of what is in front of you because you are high up, but not what is right next the car.

JLeslie's avatar

A driving class you would be in a small car.

Do you feel confident about the rules of the road? Stop at a flashing red, turn right on red, how to do a left on a green, etc.

SergeantQueen's avatar

Like this

Yeah my mom has a chevy traverse. and My grandparents have a minivan. I want to drive a smaller car when I buy one but I don’t know anyone that has one I can practice with.

I can look into driving classes and see if there are cheaper options, but it’s hard with work./school. My school goes until late (5–6) and I will be taking a 6pm-9pm class soon so it’s hard to work out.

JLeslie's avatar

Ok, that doesn’t look as massive as my truck, Which is good, but I didn’t look up the actual dimensions.

Have you practiced parking? Are you good at judging where you are in the parking space?

When you drive on the road you need to look far ahead. Practice on roads with almost no traffic going slowly if you can. 35–45 miles per hour.

Don’t feel bad, a lot of people have trouble at first and feel overwhelmed. My mom didn’t want to learn to drive. She was in her 20’s when she finally learned. My SIL also hated driving at first. They are both good drivers.

I really think you need to practice in relatively safe situations so you get more comfortable.

Do you need to drive right now?

SergeantQueen's avatar

I have spent a lot of time in a parking lot. I don’t know how many hours but it’s been a lot of time.

I am in college and rely on parents to drive me, so yes I do need to learn soon

JLeslie's avatar

Do you have a friend that you can drive their car and see if that makes it much easier for you? Will you be getting your own car?

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I could ask friends I guess and see.

Do that. A very smart friend of mine asked me to be her son’s adult driver partner, because they got on each other’s nerves.

Without the parent/child complications, he was much more relaxed. I was happy to help. It was not a bother, in fact I was flattered that they both trusted me. It was fun.

jca2's avatar

@SergeantQueen: Is it possible that you could move to a town with public transportation?

janbb's avatar

@SergeantQueen I still think that lessons with a driving school teacher is your best bet even if you wait until you have a break from school and can fit it and the money in. Aside from anything else, they have brakes on their side of the car which can relieve you of some of the anxiety. And they have seen it all and there is not the relationship dynamic of being with a parent or a friend. Also, learning on a small car rather than a truck will be much easier for you.

Second best choice would be an older family friend as @Call_Me_Jay suggests.

It sounds like you are going through so much right now, if you can, I would put the driving completely on hold for now. I function much better if I can figure out how to reduce my stress and just focus on the essentials of what I need to do.

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