Highways are an inescapable part of our lives. If you drive a car, you’ll have to drive on highways at least some of the time. Highway driving freaks a lot of drivers out though, because it’s the number one fear of anxious drivers. The speed, traffic, and driving near large vehicles creates a lot of anxiety while driving on the highway for almost anyone nervous about driving.
Listen to Andrew Cunningham, co-creator of the Driving Peace program, talk about the most common fears of anxious drivers. Highway driving includes at least half of them.
I think of highways as being driving anxiety on steroids: They combine the scariest parts of driving into one nerve-wracking activity. This includes fear of driving too fast, fear of driving in freeway traffic, and fear of merging on the highway.
Causes of Highway Driving Anxiety
- Being in a car accident – Car accidents can be traumatic and have long-lasting impacts on your mental health. Although most are fender benders, others can leave you with ongoing anxiety after a car accident. This is especially true if you or others were injured in the accident.
- Witnessing an accident – Just seeing a bad car accident may cause you to experience anxiety and trauma. This can happen even if you weren’t in it or otherwise personally involved.
- Fear of losing control – The speed and complexity of driving on the highway feels overwhelming to a lot of people. Some of them avoid highways altogether in order to not feel so out of control. Everything happens so fast, and it just feels like too much to keep track of.
- Fear of getting lost – This may sound strange, but one of the biggest fears of anxious drivers is getting lost. And, to be fair, highway exits and on-ramps are confusing, especially when you’re on an unfamiliar section of highway. This exacerbates anxiety about getting lost and ending up somewhere you didn’t intend.
Overcome Fear of Driving
Hypnosis can re-educate your unconscious mind to treat driving as an everyday activity.
Stop Being a Nervous Passenger
Calm your fears around travel with this gentle hypnosis session.
5 Simple Strategies to Beat Your Anxiety
Despite people’s fear of it, driving on highways is actually safer (statistically speaking) than driving on main roads. Yet millions of drivers needlessly avoid highways when they could beat anxiety while driving on the highway using these five simple strategies:
- Practice driving on roads with higher speed limits – Since the speed is what freaks most people out about highways, practice driving on roads with higher speed limits before attempting the highway. Keep in mind it’s perfectly legal to drive slighter under the speed limit too.
- Drive on the highway while it’s mostly empty – Pick times to practice on the highway when traffic is light. Nighttime was my favorite, but weekend evenings and early mornings work fine too.
- Get off at the next exit – Another way to build up your tolerance to highways is to practice driving from one exit to the next. This keeps your time on the highway short and manageable as you gradually increase the number of exits.
- Stay in the right hand lane – Changing lanes on highways can also be incredibly stressful. Either stay to the right (where’s it legal to driver slower, BTW) or plan your lane changes out ahead of time so you don’t get flustered.
- Take driving lessons – It may sound silly for an adult to take driving lessons, but I’ve done it myself. And I’m so glad I did! Having an instructor right there with me increased my confidence enormously. I felt much more competent and in control later when I drove alone on highways.
The world is getting more crowded. And highways are getting more crowded right along with it. Nearly everyone has a certain amount of anxiety while driving on highways from time to time. It’s very normal. But you don’t have to be crippled by your fear. Just use the strategies above to beat your highway driving fear.