Prevalence of Driving Anxiety in the General Population


Driving anxiety and driving phobia can inhibit an adult’s ability to function in today’s society.

People with driving anxiety are usually made uncomfortable or nervous when they have to perform specific tasks related to driving.

Driving phobics, by contrast, are deeply fearful of driving at all. They may experience panic attacks while driving or while in the car with someone else who is driving. Driving phobia is more severe and likely rarer than driving anxiety.

A report from New Zealand published in 2006 explores the prevalence of driving-related anxiety.

The individuals who ran the study noted that driving fear and anxiety are often the result of a relevant negative experience such as a car crash. Whether the crash leads to serious injury or not, the repercussions on mental health can be significant. Apparently the brain can become more sensitive to perceived danger after a very traumatic experience. This change is seen in phobics as well as in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The fear of driving or riding in a car can be caused by a number of different factors, but the typical reaction tends to be avoidance. People who have driving phobia or driving anxiety will avoid driving as much as possible. The difference, as noted in the study, is that driving phobics usually avoided driving altogether. People with driving anxiety are more likely to reduce their time behind the wheel by taking shortcuts or using public transportation.

The researchers conducted the study by administering a questionnaire to 100 people in the community. The questionnaire addressed some of the most common fears for someone with driving anxiety or driving phobia. Some of the most frequently feared driving-related activities include driving over a bridge or through a tunnel and driving on the highway. Many people who have been in an automobile accident are also afraid of riding in the front seat. Participants expressed additional fear of causing a car accident or being hurt because of another driver’s negligence.

Findings of the Study

More than half of the participants were found to have some level of anxiety related to driving. Eight percent said they felt “moderate to extreme levels of [driving] anxiety.” As with other anxiety disorders, more women than men in the study expressed feelings of anxiety about driving. Men tend to be more confident in their driving ability, and the men who participated in the study had more driving experience on average than did the women.

Recovering from Driving Anxiety

Driving phobia and driving anxiety are equally treatable as other anxiety disorders. If you’re interested in discussing treatment options with a professional, you can visit the site for the National Institute of Mental Health, which lists helpful resources.

Recommended Resources

Click below to view our recommended resources for coping with and overcoming anxiety or panic attacks:

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

mikedavis February 13, 2013 at 7:47 pm

A severe car accident is what triggered my driving fears. I tried to push through it, figuring I would get past it after a while, but instead I began having panic attacks behind the wheel. Soon, a panic attack would start if I even thought about driving and I was reduced almost to being a recluse until I finally went to get help with this problem.


Rich Presta February 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Sorry you had to experience that, but great job taking the steps to get help and get your life and freedom back!


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