2 September 2021
A survey by the AA Driving School has shown more than three quarters of drivers have felt anxious behind the wheel in the last year (78%)**.
Three in five said they did nothing to address their anxious feelings (67%); instead 7% had cut down on driving and 1% stopped driving altogether.
Older drivers (65+) were the least likely to have sought help (69%) and nearly half of younger drivers said they had done nothing about it (18-24s 48%).
Men were more likely than women to not address their anxiety; 72% of men compared to 59% of women said they did nothing about it.
Drivers can lose their confidence for a number of reasons. Crashes, near-misses, or just being out of practice can develop into driving phobias if left untreated.
Mental health charity Mind advises people with phobias such as a fear of driving should seek help from their GP in the first instance, as they can advise on treatment options which may include talking therapies or medication.
Promisingly, some drivers had taken steps to manage their nervousness. One in ten (13%) had tried relaxation techniques, 3% took a passenger with them on their next drive, 6% had talked to someone about their worries (such as a friend) and 2% had sought professional help.
One in five younger drivers said they had tried relaxation techniques to help them calm down (18-24s 23%).
A handful had also tried refresher driving lessons, which aim to boost confidence in experienced drivers by addressing specific concerns or areas to work on, such as motorway driving.
Those from the North East and Eastern England were most likely to have felt some driving anxiety over the last year (80%) but Yorkshire residents were most likely to have said they did nothing to address it (70%).
The results come after celebrity Fearne Cotton highlighted the impact anxiety and panic disorders can have on driving***.
It’s natural to feel some occasional nerves driving if you’re out of practice, but it can become a bigger problem if you don’t address it
Robert Cowell, Interim Managing Director of AA Driving School said: “The last year has been very stressful for a lot of people and it is understandable some of the stress has manifested itself when they are driving.
“It’s natural to feel some occasional nerves driving if you’re out of practice, but it can become a bigger problem if you don’t address it.
“If you find you are feeling anxious when you are driving, the best thing to do is to recognise that. There are lots of things you can do to help yourself, depending on your circumstances and how badly you are affected. For some drivers taking a trusted passenger will be all that’s needed to calm their nerves and boost their confidence. Others will benefit from professional lessons.
“Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises can work well for some and there’s always support available through medical professionals if anxiety starts to hinder your daily life.
“Seasoned drivers may try to keep their anxiousness to themselves due to embarrassment and it would be a shame if they start driving less because of it. Taking a refresher lesson can get you up to speed in a safe environment and instructors can help you tackle any niggling concerns; whether that’s motorway driving, parallel parking or tackling narrow country lanes.”
Find local driving instructors for refresher lessons and read more driving advice at theaa.com/drivingschool.
**Figure based on estimated number of driving license holders in UK (32.7 million).
**AA-Yonder survey of 12,759 members between 13th – 20th July 2021. Yonder is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
***News article from 14 June 2021: https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/fearne-cotton-hits-motorway-years-24315722