Being a new driver can be scary. You’re traveling at high speeds, sometimes on slippery roads, and you are sharing the roadways with people who may or may not be safe drivers themselves. And the stakes are literally life and death. Being anxious is a perfectly appropriate feeling.
In fact, we’re learning that driving anxiety is more common than anyone thought. A survey of American drivers found that 66 percent of the population experience (or have experienced) driving anxiety.
But this normal human response to the stressors of driving can be dangerous. Anxiety can result in overly-cautious driving or aggressive driving, both of which increase the odds of a collision.
So it’s critical to manage your driving anxiety. And we have five tips to help!
1. Arm Yourself with Knowledge
For many people, preparedness reduces anxiety. Studying safe driving techniques can help you understand what it takes to be a good driver, boosting your confidence in your driving ability. Your driver’s ed course will teach you all the basics: the rules of the road, safe driving habits, and how to properly maintain your vehicle to make it as safe as possible.
Most driver’s ed courses also include a chapter on defensive driving. This will teach you how to watch out for other drivers on the road. Another driver could make a mistake on the road. Or you could encounter bad drivers. But defensive driving teaches you how to handle these situations safely. You can always sign up for a defensive driving program if you want additional training or if it’s been a while since you took driver’s ed.
2. Start With Statistically Safe Driving Conditions
Driving on the freeway during rush hour in heavy rain will not reduce your driving anxiety. Instead, start with driving conditions that are statistically safest.
Start your driving during daylight hours when it’s easier to see and be seen by other drivers.
Time your driving around the weather if possible. Avoid driving in the rain, snow, wind, or fog.
Stick to residential streets with light traffic and low speed limits.
Over time, you can slowly transition into other driving conditions and environments.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Practicing is the best way to get used to driving, improve your skills, and gain confidence in your abilities, all of which will help control your fear of driving.
So get ready to put in the hours.
In most states, new drivers (particularly teenage drivers) are required to practice with a licensed adult. This is an excellent opportunity to learn how to drive safely under the supervision of someone you trust. You’ll have a second set of eyes watching for potential hazards, and you’ll be able to ask questions and get answers in real-time.
Once your state requirement of supervised driving is met, continue to practice on your own in circumstances that make you feel most comfortable. Then you can expand your comfort zone over time.
4. Employ Calming Tactics.
As with any anxiety, there are certain strategies you can use to help yourself calm down and feel more relaxed behind the wheel. Try some tactics like:
Listening to music.
Using a calming scent like lavender in your car.
5. Load Up on Smart Car Safety Features
If you’re inheriting a family car, your options might be limited. But if you have a say in your vehicle, go for one with smart safety features. Smart car features can actually make you a more confident driver.
In a recent survey, we found that the following features can help combat driver anxiety:
88 percent of those with rear cross-traffic alerts say it makes them feel safer.
86 percent of those with automatic emergency braking say it makes them feel safer.
91 percent of those with blind-spot monitoring and backup camera say these features make them feel safer.
If you’re anxious about driving, know that you’re not alone. But also know that you don’t have to be anxious forever. With these tips, you’ll feel confident enough to get started. And then, as you gain experience, you’ll gain even more confidence, and you’ll find your anxiety fading.