Why Fear of Driving is Not the Only Hazardous Fear on the Road

by on July 30, 2013

bridgeDriving phobias are not the only phobias that can have an impact on your driving skills, safety and overall quality. Even if someone does not fear driving in and of itself, he or she may fear a flurry of things that can crop up on the road. Depending on the level of fear, effects of such phobias can range from a mild palm sweating to an all-out panic attack.

Suffering from more than one of these fears is not uncommon, either, as noted by the All About Counseling website:

“[As] with many fears, one fear can lead to another and into a cycle of several mental disorders.” 

Fear of Enclosed Spaces

Fear of enclosed spaces, aka claustrophobia, can especially come into play with those newer super-compact cars that look more like a roller skate than a vehicle. Sometimes the fear is not necessarily the enclosed space per se, but rather getting trapped in a confined area, unable to escape.

In addition to erupting in cars, claustrophobia can hit in elevators, subway stations, airplanes, basements or even if the person is wearing clothing that has a neckline that’s too tight, according to Medical News Today.

Fear of Barriers

Claustrophobia has several closely related cousins, one of which is the fear of barriers. Time magazine says this phobia can hit especially hard when the barriers are very narrow, such as those funneling a wide street into a single thin lane around construction areas.

Drivers may go out of their way to avoid any construction on the road as well as any roadways that feature prominent barriers. Their quick fix if forced to drive next to a barrier can be riding on the farthest edge of the lane away from the barrier, putting motorists or anything in the adjacent lane at risk.

Fear of Driving in Tunnels

Another cousin of claustrophobia is the fear of driving in tunnels, which can also be linked to the fear of barriers. Drivers plagued with tunnel fears can attempt to avoid them altogether by not traveling on routes that feature tunnels or finding an alternate route that instead has a bridge. That is, of course, if the driver isn’t one who fears both tunnels and bridges, which The New York Times says is not uncommon.

Fear of Driving on Bridges

The fear of wide open spaces is often behind the fear of driving on bridges, a condition also known as gephyrophobia. Since New York City and state are packed with bridges, the phobia can be particularly crippling for its residents.

The Times reports the fear of bridges is common enough on the state Tappan Zee Bridge, which spans the Hudson River at one of its widest points, that the state offers chauffeurs to drive folks over the bridge if the folks are too fearful to tackle it themselves.

Fear of Loud Noises

Unless your vehicle is sound-proofed, the fear of loud noises can also come into play to disrupt a driver. That’s because the road may be full of sirens, screeching, clanging and revving – not to mention the drivers who blast their stereos far beyond the speakers’ capacity.

The official name for the fear is ligyrophobia, and the AllAboutCounseling website says it’s “surprisingly common.”  The site also notes the fear results in a startled reaction, and can morph into a fear of any object or item that emits a loud noise, such as the sight of a police car, ambulance, fire engine or dump truck.

Fear of Authority Figures

The sight of a police car or other official vehicle can also instill panic in drivers who fear authority figures. Social psychologist Dr. Signe Dayhoff points out several reasons folks may fear authority figures, such as seeing the figure as:

  • All-powerful
  • Having the ability to use that power randomly against you
  • Possessing the power of life or death over you
  • Superior to you or having a special quality you don’t have, thereby making you inferior

The fear can result in driving very slowly near a police car or taking a completely different route if one pulls into view. It may also induce panic attacks if you’re ever pulled over by a police officer.

Fear of Cyclists

Known as cyclophobia, the fear of bikes and bicyclists can lead to panic attacks or freezing up whenever a bicycle rider comes into view. Time magazine reports the phobia often shows up in folks who never learned to ride a bike or those whose bicycle learning experience was particularly traumatic.

Effects of this phobia may result in a driver not wanting to pass a bicyclist or drive anywhere near one, a move that can slow down traffic behind him as well as make the cyclist nervous. If the driver does decide to go around the bicyclist, he will give the bicyclist a very wide space, not unlike those who drive on the edge of the lane to avoid driving near barriers. One more side effect can be the sudden slamming of the brakes if a bicyclist appears, another move that can disrupt and even damage traffic behind him.

Fear of Letting People Down

The fear of letting people down can be one facet of the overall fear of failure, a condition known as atychiphobia. It can also lead to some outrageous – and dangerous – driving habits. Time magazine takes a somewhat humorous tact with the condition, saying, “Too much civility can be a pain in the behind,” but there is certainly nothing funny about getting stuck behind a driver who pays more attention to the happiness of other drivers than he does to his own driving skills.

Such drivers may go out of their way to seemingly accommodate others around him, such as holding up traffic to let a long line of cars ahead of him when letting in a single car would have been polite enough. A lesser version of the phobia is people pleasing, which may be much more easily conquered on the road when you see the lineup of displeased motorists behind you.

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