Fear of Driving On Freeways or In Other Specific Situations (Readers’ Questions Answered)

Shelly wrote:

I get anxiety when I’m driving on freeways. I hate freeways, especially when it’s going downhill. I don’t like what it has done to me. I was in a car accident before all this happened and ever since I have trouble on freeways. That’s where my accident happened.
I feel embarrassed and scared. I want to fix this fear I have.

Holly wrote:

I am 24. I grew up in a big city where I drove on huge highways for long distances all the time. When I was about 21, I started experiencing panic attacks on the highway. I saw a counselor about this and other anxiety issues and they brought up a good point. When I feel panicky, I feel as though I will crash the car or mentally/physically lose control. The doctor told me that panicking makes your heart race and this causes you to be more alert than usual. I’m not going to faint or pass out while driving. I’m just psyching myself out. I moved to the mountains and was fine driving except on highways. Well, recently my fear is back and I can’t help but think that it is related to other issues I am having. I’m glad to see that I am not the only one with these issues. We can get past this! We are all strong and just we need to remember that we deserve to be good and calm drivers just as much as everyone else!

Betzblue wrote:

I have “safety zones” that I can drive without any problems (say 15 miles away from home) but I cannot drive on freeways, or in heavy traffic. I will take back roads and drive an hour getting to my destination instead of dealing with the “panic attacks”. I have been having these for 20+ years. I refuse to take drugs so I stay away from “professional help.” Many of my friends & family used to say that I was making it up/ no one has panic attacks while driving.” Now I can see that other people do have them too.

Estelle wrote:

Hi I have a fear of falling over when I drive in busy places. I don’t like mountain passes and freeway also on bridges. Even as a passenger it gets scary. It’s getting to me a lot and all my family live about an hour away from my home. I can’t get there and see them. I have to wait for them to come and see me or get a lift. We should be free from this crippling anxiety. I really need to get back on track and go out and have fun some again. I know….. I think too much, wish there was a switch that you could turn it off. Then it would be easy.

Our Answer:

Fear of driving on freeways is very common. Many people who do not drive a lot or do not need to drive a lot are more reluctant to get onto freeways.

The reason for this may be as simple as not having enough practice doing this type of driving, which can cause panic in someone prone to anxiety. Anything unfamiliar that we don’t do often can cause anxiety.

Many people who fear driving on highways find that their fears decrease once they get out and do it on a regular basis.

Other drivers who have no problem driving around their town on a sunny day may have a fear of driving in the rain or snow. Still other drivers fear driving through bridges and tunnels.

All of these specific fears are usually based on the same underlying idea that it is more dangerous to be in these less familiar situations.

Can you think of another situation in your life that scared you before you started doing it?

Maybe you wanted to learn to swim but were afraid, only to find out that you actually enjoy swimming now that you have learned how to do it. Or perhaps you were afraid to take a more responsible job but now you are confident and proud of the work you do each day.

You can approach driving on a freeway or in another situation that you perceive as dangerous in the same way. If you already have some amount of confidence when you are driving on slower, less crowded roads, you have an advantage.

There are also specific things you can do to make driving on freeways or in other specific situations less frightening. If you want to explore more ideas related to this type of driving fear, read the related article on that topic.