Driving anxiety can occur for many reasons, such as a lack of experience or concern about other drivers' actions, says William Van Tassel, manager of AAA’s driving training programs. Some drivers may feel discomfort with certain situations (such as driving in stormy weather or late at night)‚ while others may find their confidence shaken after getting in an accident.
“A lot of people assume that only older drivers are nervous drivers. But really it can happen at any age,” says Laura Adams, a driving and education safety expert at Aceable, an online driver’s education provider. Whatever the cause of your nerves, it’s a good idea to try to get past them. Being tense does not tend to result in good driving, says Adams.
Looking to quash your driving-related nerves? We spoke to experts to get practical tips for how to build your confidence behind the wheel.
Prepare and practice.
"Knowledge is power," says Lauren Fix, an automotive expert, ASE certified technician, and race car driver. That's true for all drivers, but particularly new ones. Understanding how your car works and how to handle all sorts of scenarios that might come up while you're behind the wheel is a surefire way to quell anxiety.
Stressed about snowy roads? Not sure how anti-lock brakes or driver assistance technologies work? “Learn about it,” suggests Fix. Reading articles and watching videos can help curb anxiety for new and experienced drivers, she says. Once you get the gist of how to drive under certain conditions, Fix recommends getting in some practice: Head to a deserted parking lot where you can get a sense of your vehicle’s capabilities or gain comfort and familiarity with driving in inclement weather.
Practice can also be restorative in the days and weeks following an accident. Take slow, simple steps to get past accident-related nerves. Adams recommends running a quick errand to a nearby spot, or going for a drive around your neighborhood, where the streets and roads are familiar. “Making even a few trips successfully will begin to build your confidence again,” says Adams.