Fear of Driving: When Panic Takes Control

Sweating, tachycardia or panic attacks – there are quite a few symptoms of fear of driving. Overcoming them or even losing them can be quite difficult for those affected – regardless of whether they are drivers or passengers. However, there are various ways to counteract the fear of driving. We will tell you how anxiety disorder when driving can be overcome, what causes it and what symptoms it manifests itself with.


What types of anxiety disorders are there?

The fear of driving is widespread among the population and a problem that should not be underestimated . It is part of everyday life for many people. Whether driving on the freeway or at night – the fear of driving, also known as amaxophobia , can manifest itself in a wide variety of situations. Below you will find an overview of the most common driving fears.

fear of driving
According to a Forsa study, there are around 7 million people who suffer from a fear of driving

Fear of driving on the freeway

Fear of driving on the Autobahn is one of the most common fears among drivers . For people who are afraid of panic attacks or losing control, the Autobahn is downright fatal. This is mostly due to the construction and the pace that prevails there. Because those affected cannot simply stop or drive more slowly if, for example, a panic attack comes over them. It is the fear of a possible anxiety disorder – that is, the fear of fear. Those affected then react with stress symptoms such as cold sweats, tachycardia or hyperventilation. These unexpected fear reactions often lead to avoidance behavior that can lead to severe limitations in everyday life. 

Good to know: Panic attacks are sudden physical fear reactions that are often triggered by subconscious experiences and occur in certain situations. Many of those affected have the feeling of fainting and therefore avoid the respective surroundings, which severely restricts them in everyday life.

Fear of parking

Many people also report parking anxiety , which makes those affected particularly nervous when parking. Even before they steer the vehicle into a parking space, the fear arises that they will fail or cause damage . Especially when other road users or pedestrians are watching the person concerned. They feel pressured and fear that they will not make it or that they will miss something. 

afraid of driving
People who are afraid of parking imagine in advance how they will fail

Those affected then usually react with inner restlessness, loss of concentration or cramps in the arms and legs . The process of parking seems forgotten – blackout! However, these fearful thoughts are often unfounded and only in the thoughts of the person concerned. Here it is: Internalize the processes of forward and reverse parking and practice dealing with the excitement of parking in order to reduce nervousness or to control it. 

Fear of driving in the city

Especially in busy inner cities , many car drivers suffer from an anxiety disorder behind the wheel. They fear the hustle and bustle of city traffic for fear of attracting attention . Whether it’s the chaos at complicated intersections, aggressive pushers and cyclists, or possible pressure situations – those affected experience a tangle of fearful thoughts . A mess where they believe they are losing control, making mistakes, or possibly causing an accident that could harm other people. This fear of your own inabilityleads to cramping muscles, increased heart rate or a lack of concentration – in some cases even to tunnel vision. Here it is important to work on the routines , because they are the basics of driving a car.

Anxiety when driving after an accident

Accident situations that have already been experienced are also possible fear triggers in road traffic for many drivers. Those affected are afraid of getting behind the wheel again because they are afraid of getting into a dangerous and unmanageable situation again . Even a pothole can greatly increase the fear of driving. Under certain circumstances, those affected no longer get behind the wheel. The anxiety symptoms are often noticeable as soon as you get on board. These include extreme nervousness, tachycardia and panic attacks .

fear of driving after car accident
People who have been involved in an accident often develop a fear of driving

Fear of driving on construction sites and next to trucks

Impatient drivers, narrow lanes due to construction sites or overtaking trucks – a horror scenario par excellence for some car drivers. Fear, nervousness and even panic attacks spread among those affected, which means they can no longer concentrate and have the feeling of losing control over what is happening . Many therefore avoid construction sites on the freeway or overtaking lorries and avoid driving on country roads. To counteract anxiety, it’s important to keep exercising, taking breaks, and staying calm at all times.

afraid of driving a car next to a truck
The close tailgating of a truck or even an overtaking maneuver is particularly unpleasant for those who are afraid of driving

afraid of the dark

Almost everyone has heard the phrase: “I don’t like driving in the dark. I’m blind at night and can’t judge the traffic.” Many of those affected say that when it gets dark they often see other road users too late or are simply not concentrating, which causes panic when driving. Headlights, which can dazzle drivers in the dark, are particularly annoying for those who are afraid of driving. These statements are heard more and more frequently, especially in the dark autumn and winter months and when it is raining. For many, this situation can leave a queasy feeling, but for some, this feeling goes beyond mere discomfort – those affected then suffer from a fear of driving.

Signs of anxiety when driving

Typical physical symptoms of fear of driving include:

  • tachycardia
  • nervousness 
  • Inner unrest
  • sweats
  • muscle twitching
  • Increased feeling of stress
  • panic attacks
  • nausea
  • shortness of breath and hyperventilation
  • dizziness
  • Tremble

These are the causes of anxiety disorders when driving

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional driver, an experienced or less experienced car driver – in Germany, the fear of driving is one of the most widespread phobias . The causes of fear of driving are varied and can occur in many different ways. We will tell you what causes are possible anxiety triggers .

anxiety disorders

An anxiety disorder is the fear of harming yourself or someone else through your driving . Social phobia also belongs to the category of anxiety disorders, in which those affected are constantly afraid of doing something wrong, embarrassing themselves or being criticized by others when driving.

The same applies to the so-called panic disorder , which can lead to a loss of control in fearful drivers while driving. Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder in which sufferers experience sudden panic attacks without a specific trigger . 

In the case of claustrophobia , car drivers often avoid cramped situations – these can be, for example, multi-storey car parks, traffic jams and lanes narrowed by construction sites. But the fear of heights is also one of the best-known anxiety disorders, in which those affected consciously take detours to avoid bridges or roads on slopes. 

By the way: A lack of driving experience, a certain degree of insecurity or a low level of self-confidence in one’s own abilities can quickly lead to an anxiety disorder when driving.


Many of those affected continue to suffer from the mental consequences of a traffic accident for a long time , because they fear again and again that they will get into an accident while driving or see one. Near misses can also be possible triggers. When driving, this can lead to anxiety disorders, which manifest themselves in a variety of ways.  

Good to know: Trauma is also known as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Panic attack at the wheel – what to do?

If you feel overwhelmed by anxiety while driving, the following measures can help :

  • Consciously inhale and exhale through your nose into your abdomen
  • Open windows and let in fresh air
  • accept fear
  • Turn on the radio and sing along or talk to yourself out loud
  • Allow positive thoughts and experiences
  • Pull over and take a short break if possible

Overcome your fear of driving – practical tips and helpful information

Driving can be stressful and scary for many car drivers. However, there are many different ways that can help combat anxiety. However, these always depend on the type and severity of the anxiety disorder. It is also important for people who are afraid of driving to admit to themselves that there is a problem as a first step. Only those who face it and accept it can actively counteract it. Find out below what measures are available to overcome the fear of driving .

self help

Self-help can be carried out at an on-site facility or at home . A local self-help group brings together people with mild panic and anxiety disorders to exchange experiences and develop joint solutions – guided by a trained group leader who specializes in this topic. Affected people who prefer to work on themselves and their fear of driving from home can use so-called self-help guides . Fear of driving can be reduced by driving a car regularly. 

Overcome your fear of driving by helping yourself
Talk about fears together and work out strategies to get the fear of driving under control


As part of psychotherapy, those affected work on unstable behavior in road traffic in outpatient one-to-one sessions with a psychologist . Phobias or post-traumatic stress disorders are increasingly treated with this measure. Individual relaxation techniques and coping strategies are developed within the therapy together with the psychologist. This should be followed by a confrontation with the help of virtual and/or real driver training in order to put what has been learned into practice. This creates routines and at the same time reduces avoidance behavior. 

driving training

Many driving schools offer professional driver training with confrontation exercises for those affected who cannot overcome their fear of driving on their own . The goal here is to regain confidence in your own driving skills. If you have a certain fear of driving, driving safety training can also help that can alleviate the fear of certain situations when driving a car. Affected people who have a strong fear of driving often receive driving simulation training as a first step . The training then takes place virtually on the computer – after that it is continued in reality.

driving safety training for people who are afraid of driving
Refresher courses or driving safety training can help to alleviate or even overcome the fear of driving

By the way: Passengers who are afraid of driving can also work with appropriate treatment therapies to reduce their fear of driving.

More driving safety with modern assistance systems

So that you always reach your destination safely with your car, it is important that you get help if you are afraid of driving. You are not alone with the fear of driving, because many people know this feeling and fear of driving can affect everyone. However, dealing with the fear of driving can be combated  through special therapeutic approaches and various training courses .

If you are constantly afraid of accidents when driving , modern driver assistance systems can help. These can support drivers in dangerous traffic situations and protect them from accidents. Would you also like to benefit from these security features? Then we recommend that you buy a modern new car with the latest technology . Since new models are usually unaffordable to buy, it is worth considering cheap new car leasing – preferably via LeasingMarkt.de. There you will receive flexible leasing contracts for vehicles of all well-known brands that are equipped with the latest driver assistance systemsare equipped. Take a look and invest in your driving safety with little financial effort!

Leave a Reply