11 Ways How To Overcome The Fear Of Driving On A Highway In (2021)

7 min read

An estimated 40 million American adults have an anxiety disorder.

Let’s face it, highway driving, especially in heavy traffic, is generally accepted as a necessary annoyance people deal with as part of daily living. 

However, having panic attacks because of highway driving is more common than most people know.

Let’s dive right into it.

Driving On A Highway
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

How To Overcome Fear Of Driving On Highways

Driving anxiety is a widespread problem that no one talks about and people really need a way to get help. There’s very little reliable and helpful information out there for people.  

If you’ve ever felt like you need help with how to overcome fear of driving on highways, read these 11 ways:

Make the Decision to Take Action

This can be the most important step because the mind and body make it so easy to just put it off for another day or decide it’s not that big a deal, etc. 

It can feel like it’s really hard to face your fears, yet when you do, it’s very empowering.

So first, decide to take action and stick to your plan.

Acceptance

The next step would be to accept your situation. It’s not helpful to deny or avoid what you’re going through. That may work for a while but you’ll find that it eventually keeps it persisting.

Being afraid to drive on the highway is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, shame will only add to the issue.

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Accept it and then know you have the power to overcome this fear.

Breath and Mindfulness

To release anxiety, bring your focus to your breath. Breathe in and notice how your chest and abdomen move. Feel your back also expand with an in breath. Then slowly breathe out and feel your body move that breath out.

Do that two or three times and find that you’re actually okay in this moment. Do this anytime you begin to feel like you’re about to lose control.

Write Them Down

Write down exactly what you’re specifically afraid of and approach them one at a time. Ask yourself where each one came from and if they’re really even true.

Then with curiosity, find out how realistic the fears are or ways you could cope with them. Write these things down as well. 

It’s Okay to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Comfort zones are so comfortable that the decision to overcome your driver phobia can feel so difficult and virtually counter intuitive.

Yet outside your comfort zone is where possibilities exist and life begins. Outside your comfort zone is where your fears diminish and your confidence shines.

Take It Slow

If it’s too overwhelming to think about jumping in the car and driving for an hour on the freeway, then just take it a bit at a time. Get on and then get off at the next exit. Each time try going a little bit further. 

Have a passenger you’re comfortable with at first, then eventually drive on your own. Also avoid rush hour at the beginning too.

There’s no need to rush right into anything. That could only drive up your anxiety.

Freeway Driving Is Safer

With everyone going in the same direction on the freeway, in itself, makes it safer to drive on, even though the speeds are faster.

Unless there’s a traffic jam, you’re not constantly stopping and going like we’re used to on city streets. So, because of this, there’s less chance of an incident.

These factors make it a little safer driving on a freeway.

Brush Up On Safety Maneuvers

It helps to remember that as the driver, you do have ways to keep yourself protected and safe on the highways. Brush up on defensive driving measures that make you more confident with your driving skills.

It’s helpful to:

  • keep your distance from other cars
  • be okay with driving in the right lane
  • let others go past you in the left lanes
  • keep your eyes on the horizon rather than on the road directly in front of you. 
Overcome Fear
Photo by Nikola Markelov on Unsplash

Identify Points of Exit

If your phobia comes from feeling trapped, check your route ahead of time and determine the places where you may actually exit the freeway if you need. 

If you panic, remind yourself that you know an exit is coming up and getting off there will be easy.

Keeping to the right lane also allows you easy access to the shoulder and helps you be more confident.

Remember You’re In Charge

Anticipating the many things that could go wrong can be a big part of a fear of highway driving.

You are driving the car. The car or the traffic are not driving you. So you get to decide where you’re getting off the highway, what speed you feel comfortable with, when you’ll apply the brakes, etc.

All these measures help to keep you able to drive with confidence on the freeway and set your fears aside.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT can help you identify distortions in your thinking about freeway driving. Phobias are generally irrational in nature. CBT helps to identify irrational thinking that are used to keep you afraid and provides concrete steps to help you correct it.

A therapist is someone who could guide you, however some of these listed skills can work if used first on your own.

Driving
Photo by David Barajas on Unsplash

Fear Of Driving On Freeway

The thought of driving on freeways for many can be anxiety inducing for different reasons.

Years ago when my daughter was two years old, I was driving on a busy freeway with her and my six year old nephew. It was a bright sunny day in the middle of winter and the roads were completely dry.

While happily driving my VW Golf GTI a transport truck began moving into my lane. I didn’t see him and he obviously didn’t see me because his truck began pushing my car into the next lane. 

When he realized this he backed off and that sent my car spinning around on the freeway until I hit the guardrail head on. Thankfully, my gaze was met by rows of cars stopped in front of me, as I was now pointed in the wrong direction.

Gratefully, we were all fine.

My body was in shock from what had occurred and after that I was adamant not to drive on the freeway ever again. I looked for any alternative route to drive on and stayed on local roads.

Thankfully, I was eventually able to command rational thought and confidence after several months and got back on freeways again.

There are many reasons for people to have a fear or anxiety of driving on the freeway.

  • Inability to Stop or Get Off

Many people feel trapped with an inability to stop or to get off the freeway. This is not a rational fear, although it can be debilitating.

  • Getting On or Getting Off the Highway

Merging traffic and changing lanes can be areas that may make someone afraid about highway driving.

  • Going Too Fast and Losing Control

Feeling pressured to increase your speed is one of the common things that contribute to the fear of possibly swerving into another driver or not braking in time.

  • Panic Attacks While on the Freeway

People with anxiety often fear the possibility of having a panic attack while driving on the freeway. This can be an extension of the fear of feeling trapped.

  • Previous Accidents

As in my case, an accident that involved children in the car impressed a snapshot in my mind so strongly that I couldn’t get back on a freeway for several months.

  • Road Rage and Aggressive Driving

These days road rage and aggressive driving seems to be experienced quite a bit. If you’re on the receiving end of road rage, it can feel very intimidating. So much so that it’s enough for some people to avoid freeways at all costs.

  • So Much Could Go Wrong

You could be focused on everything that could go wrong. With increased speeds, there’s less time to react. There are people moving in and out of lanes to keep track of so you don’t move over at the same time as someone else. 

If these thoughts fill your head all at once, it can be overwhelming and trigger anxiety.

Fear Of Highways

If you have a fear of driving on the highway and it’s limiting the way you would like to live your life, then it’s time to find ways to overcome it.

By just hoping it’ll resolve itself is an illusion just in order to avoid looking at the deeper reasons behind it.

Allowing this phobia to stop us from living life freely dampens the spirit to a certain extent. Fear of driving on highways could stop you from seeing a loved one at a crucial time or living out a dream.

If this fear leads to full blown panic attacks, then address your mental health overall with someone. Possibly even find a therapist you like to get yourself back on the road.

Many people live with panic attacks from the anxiety of thinking about what could go wrong in the future.

Anxiety attacks are physically distressing and could lead to problems while driving. It’s important to understand that your thoughts are affecting you, whether they’re positive or fearful. You are the only one with the way to control them.

You could find that it may take time to work through, however there is always a way to improve your situation in life.

Drive with confidence and get back on highway roads.

If you have a personal experience of overcoming the fear of driving on highways, please post a comment here.

Do you know a driver who would benefit from reading this? If so, please forward it to them or post a link for people to read it if you’ve found it helpful.

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