March 18, 2011 - submitted by Ana, United States of America

I'm a 20 year old who does not know how to drive. I am terrified of driving because I have been in the front passenger seat of two car accidents. My family tells me all the time that I need to drive and I know it is true. But just thinking about driving makes me really freaked out and sometimes I even feel like crying because of how scary driving seems to me. I need to drive now, because I have to go to school and I can't keep asking for rides. How do you think I can get over this fear and drive already?! Ana.

The Oracle replies:

Being the victim of two car crashes I'm not surprised you have a fear. I have had a couple of bumps over the years and one was quite bad but getting from A to B independently meant more than never getting behind the wheel again. Even though you had those accidents you are essentially fearing fear itself; the fear it could happen again. The thing is, it could but equally it may NEVER happen again. Being driven and driving are quite different experiences by the way. If you learn how to drive you'll be in control of the vehicle which once you gain in confidence will put you more at ease. I can't say other drivers on the road aren't going to bump into you as they may, but as I said, they may not. My cousin is a very careful driver but she's been involved in a few crashes; she almost expects it. The best thing you can do is treat this as you would anything else. For example, if you get food poisoning you don't decide never to eat again and get upset at the thought of it do you? There are more extreme ways of overcoming your fear such as hypnotherapy. There are also alternative remedies that could help with your anxieties but remember, the phobia can be overcome as it's in your mind. The feeling is so overwhelming because it's real and based on real incidents but I truly believe in mind over matter. You could set yourself a harsh hypothetical test... Imagine if there was an emergency in the future and the aid of it depended on you having to drive, I'm guessing you'd feel pretty useless if you couldn't help? Write a list of the pros and cons of being able to drive. I bet there's only one negative. If you put things into perspective you will see that you're not being irrational but you can do this. As you say you're getting lifts, so you haven't got a problem with being in a car but it's time to try the other front seat. Be brave and don't panic - remember, you'll be in control. If you pass your test you may decide you don't want to drive again but think of it as a skill you'll have acquired that could open up many opportunities for you. Give in to the fear and confront it. Good luck. Over to you.

First of all, you are not the only one who has the fear, so rest assured that your fear is not silly, nor is it misplaced. Driving accidents account for a high number of injuries and deaths. Despite how common it is, it is not something to take lightly. But there does come a time when we all have to realize that even though there is a risk and that something could happen, it's not likely if we are careful and vigilante. Take me for example: even though I'm well over six feet tall, I'm deathly afraid of heights. Even just being ten feet off the grounds makes my palms get sweaty and tingly, and being more than two or three stories up can result in me having panic attacks and crying. And one day at work, I was asked to go up on the ladder (a very rickety and unstable ladder I might add), and change light bulbs. But there are times when you have to realize that you can't always run in fear, you must say to yourself "Ok. This needs to happen and I'm the only one that can do it. But it's going to be ok because I can do it!!" And as you are going, you may have to tell yourself over and over, "It's ok, I'm alright, nothings going to happen to me." But in the end, when you make it to the top (or rather, get behind the wheel), and you've been going for a little while without problems, you realize, It's ok. I'm gonna make it. And the relief and satisfaction that you get from that is far greater than the fear you previously experienced. And learning that will help you to overcome many of life's other challenges. It's just a stepping stone along the way. And at any rate, you've managed to get the support of a guy whom you have never met, and may never meet. If you can do that, you can drive a car. I believe in you. :-) Your new friend, Jared.

I'm 19 and still don't know how to drive, either. Both my parents, my brother and my sister learned when they were very young and they think I'm crazy for not embracing it like they did. I did get my Learner's Permit and did drive around with my dad a few times. It is a very scary thing if you think about it but so many people do it and they are perfectly fine. If you think you have a phobia of driving or cars, I would say to get professional help. Phobias are curable and they will probably use systematic desensitization to help you. It's just a step by step process to help you get used to being in cars and show you that there is nothing to be afraid of as long as you are careful and aware of your surroundings. I hope this helped. Good luck! Katie.

I was in the same position as you. Instead of being in accidents I have actually been hit twice by cars. They weren't anything major, though when I needed to learn how to drive I panicked. I was terrified of being in accidents or hitting cars or PEOPLE! My parents bought me a car and said they would no longer be taking me places. I asked my friend, who already has her license to help me. She helped me, slowly everyday after class. Usually at empty car lots. We practice everyday. I think driving always seems intimidating to non-drivers, but if you get behind the wheel you will notice it really isn't that hard. Get someone who is a good friend and a calm person to help you. Soon you'll be driving on your own!
Ps. I'm nineteen and have been driving for two weeks:) I will be taking my driving exam in three weeks. Hope I helped, Vanessa.

I got in a car crash three months after having my learner's permit. I crashed into a Wendy's drive-through wall going about ten miles an hour--not too scary, but pretty traumatic for a kid. I know it's terrifying to get behind the wheel after something like that, and especially if it's happened twice! I suggest easing yourself into it. Find a big, empty parking lot, and ask your friend with a big safe car to teach you to drive. This way, you won't hurt anything and no one will hurt you. You don't even have to press the gas at first, just go in neutral. Then you can graduate to streets. One advantage for you is that because of your fear you'll probably be super aware of the cars around you, which is a viable skill. I used to be petrified of driving, but now I'm alright with it--and you will be one day! Overcoming a serious fear is really daunting, but once you come through it, I promise promise promise it will be empowering too. Amber, USA.

With a trusted friend or driving instructor...
1. Sit in the car in the driver's seat. Familiarize yourself with the controls. (Are you afraid? Sit there until you're not.)
2. Turn the car on. (Afraid? No? Go to #3.)
3. Drive SLOWLY in a parking lot or open space until you are no longer anxious. (Could take a long time.)
4. Visualize yourself as a confident driver.
5. Drive around your neighborhood.
6. Take a driver's education course.
8. Stay off the cell phone while driving!
Good luck! Colleen.

Do not worry. I too am 20 years and can't drive. I do wish at times that I could, but after a few years, I have adjusted well into this situation.
Sure, I never experienced any live accidents as you have, but all I know is to keep your head up. Have you talked to someone close about your situation? What about simple "lessons" like driving down a street and back?
If not, I am positive that may help. Also I do have faith that someday, you will overcome your fear. Remember, you are not alone and there are always people who want to help you. Wish you luck. Danny S.

I'm also a 20 year old and I don't know how to drive. Sometimes I'm afraid of crashing the car too, but learning to drive is something necessary. I think that I could have an emergency anytime and knowing to drive would be really helpful in that situation. Think how helpful it would be if you had an urgency and had to take a member of your family to the hospital, for example.
My mother was on a car accident and she was the driver. A car appeared out of nowhere and although she was a good driver, she crashed. The woman who was in the front passenger seat could have died, but a man that was nearby took her to the hospital and she lived. My mother didn't drive for the next 20 years. I asked her how did she do to start driving again and she told me that she couldn't let the fear win. Knowing how to drive is something necessary. She was insecure, but she focused on that necessity and little by little she got her confidence back. You have to focus on how much you need to learn to drive; think hard in the possibilities it offers you; get into the car, seat on the driver seat and stay and think there, though you aren't encouraged to take the car to the street yet. You can go to an academy or ask someone you trust to teach you. Although it might take a little time, if you have determination I'm sure that you will surpass your fears. Love from Argentina. Noelia.

It sounds like you get anxiety attacks, and it should always be taken seriously. Our brain is really good at remembering dangerous situation to protect us, but sometimes that works against what we want. Fear doesn't listen to reason, and you don't want to force this through, as it can make it worse.
You need some tools to tackle the fear and a professional psychologist can give you that. So maybe you can ask for rides until you're ready to drive - then you can be the one giving the rides. Maria.

I'm 28 and I've been driving for only a year. Moreover, I failed my driving exam four times. I had hard times during my classes and more than once I felt like stopping the engine, throwing the keys at my instructor and leaving. Very often I was about to cry - not necessarily out of fear, but frustration. People make it sound so easy, but it is hard! I had an accident myself - I was run over on a pedestrian crossing - and I understand your fears and how they make the very thought of driving scary. I would suggest you take on a few lessons, but make it clear to the instructor how you feel about it. Learning the theoretical part cannot harm ; maybe knowing what's going on will make you feel more comfortable. As for the driving, there will be an experienced person with you and you will be safe.
BUT. There is nothing you have to do. Many people get around without cars, and a bad driver who is scared is much much worse than somebody who doesn't drive at all. Try it and see how you feel. I wish you luck! Kata.

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