Driving a car is probably the most risky thing many of us do. A recent survey by Allianz Insurance, reported in The Herald Sun on February 28th 2014, has discovered that 79% of the 1000 drivers they surveyed had worries about driving.
17% of motorists surveyed reported that they decide not to make a certain trip due to their fear of driving a car. This is not surprising to me as I know many people who will not drive in city traffic or on freeways for fear of having a panic attack. Numerous people have told me they would not drive through tunnels or over the Westgate Bridge for fear of having a panic attack in the car.
The survey also found that 83% of middle aged drivers (those aged 35-44) got anxiety while driving. Motorists were found to be worried about tailgating, road rage and uninsured drivers.
Understandably, 22% of people who had had a car crash reported experiencing more worry and stress and a drop in confidence after a collision. Women who had had a car crash were more worried than males who had had a collision.
Some motorists will develop post traumatic stress disorder after a motor vehicle accident and may require assistance from a mental health professional , such as a psychologist, in order to get back behind the wheel. I have worked with people who, having had a serious car accident, were unable to even look at a car resembling their vehicle, without experiencing significant fear. These drivers need to be slowly and gently exposed to driving. The driving experience may need to be broken down into very small, manageable steps. Even sitting in the car without turning the ignition on may be stressful for a traumatised motorist.
For example, initially an anxious motorist might just drive up and down a dead end street. Then they might progress to driving around quiet back streets. Then they might venture onto a more busy road, and eventually work up to driving on a freeway. Some anxious drivers might feel safer with someone sitting beside them, but others feel more stress if accompanied as they fear they might injure or kill their passenger. Many motorists with post traumatic stress disorder can overcome their fear of driving a car with graded, repeated, prolonged , massed exposure .