What is it about the highway that makes it so frightening for so many people? Is it the speed? The distance? The lack of ability to pull off if you get anxious?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Being afraid of driving on the highway is one of the most common things that I help people overcome. What makes it difficult is that it’s takes a few of the more common feared situations and bundles them together for the driver. Not only are you going at a high rate of speed, but you’re likely traveling further than home or your “safe place” than you would like, are more likely to encounter bridges, and will be unable to pull over and escape the situation readily if you feel anxious.
Rest assured, these are all solvable problems.
First let’s take a look at speed. If you’re more comfortable on local roads than the freeway, perhaps your driving anxiety is worse because you feel you’re traveling at such a higher rate of speed. Are you really though? Pay attention to how fast you’re traveling on the roads you feel more comfortable on, it’s very likely that even on local roads you frequently travel at 35 or 45 miles per hour, and often even faster! On the highway, you’re probably going the same speed as you would be going in the course of your regular driving; you’ve just wrongly associated it as much faster.
There’s no reason you need to press the pedal to the floor and barrel down the highway as fast as possible, in fact, that’s counterproductive. Quit rushing through your feared situation, force yourself to slow down to a safe and reasonable speed, and realize that driving isn’t really that terrifying. Get in the right lane, take some deep breaths, and let you shoulders drop. Relax…you’ve got climate control, a stereo sound system, and a chair more comfortable than what I’m sitting on as I write this. Just let go, you don’t need to race through the experience. It won’t hut you…honest.
The fact that you’re driving on the highway also makes it far more likely that you’re traveling away from your home or comfort zone, which can also cause driving anxiety. Remember, it’s ok to feel scared when you’re pushing through your comfort zone into unfamiliar territory.
I saved the best for last. What a lot of people really hate about driving on the highway, and why it causes such an intense fear of driving, is because people feel trapped. They feel like they can’t escape the situation if they get anxious, that exits are so far from one another. Getting on the highway takes a certain level of commitment that isn’t necessary when you can turn around and go home whenever you want. It’s not the same as being able to pull over into any parking lot and take a break, or get out of the car, etc.
If this is your major fear about the highway, and it was mine, I’m going to share with you two words that can forever make you feel better about it. Ready?
That’s right. So what? So what if you can’t get off the highway until the next exit in a few miles? What do you think is REALLY going to happen? Think you’ll lose control and twist the wheel into traffic or off the bridge? You won’t. Think your mind will spin too fast and you’ll slip into madness? You won’t, it doesn’t work that way. Maybe you’ll have to pull over and you’ll disrupt traffic and run across the highway and have to be restrained and be on the news and be humiliated. Nope. Won’t happen. Ou’ll need to get your 15 minutes some other way.
Chances are you’ve been very afraid of at least one of the above quite a few times. Has it ever happened? What’s the worst result you’ve experienced? You felt crappy and scared, and depressed. Maybe you felt like you were going to lose control, but you didn’t. You didn’t save yourself by escaping, it would never have happened anyway. The sooner you learn how to handle those feelings and get them to go away, the sooner you’ll realize that they’re meaningless anyway. The key is that we’re never afraid of what IS happening, we’re also afraid of what we feel MAY happen if we continue. Right?
In the Driving Fear program you’ll learn why you don’t need to be afraid of all those fearful feelings and how to get them to stop. You’ll learn what you’re really afraid of (it probably isn’t what you think) and how to turn that fear of driving off and tell your head to slow down and shut up. Sooner than you think, the highway can be just what it is for me now, the quickest and usually most boring way to get from point A to point B.
Published with permission from Rich Presta and www.DrivingFear.com