Coping With The Fear of Driving

Many of us are avid motorists who enjoy the thrill of the open road, steady Sunday drives, or simply picking a direction and driving for a while. However, what if something happens if you develop a fear that profoundly upsets this pastime? 

Fitness to Drive

Driving and mental illness are two things not often linked, let alone talked about in the same breath, but it’s a serious issue for many motorists. Different countries and their medical professions have slightly different takes on this unrepresented field. Below, we take a look at a few of them.

The United Kingdom

The UK, along with several other countries, require you to inform the relevant agency of your Fitness to Drive (FTD). The Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency are in charge of all vehicle-related business, and it is against the law to withhold information that can negatively impact your driving ability. 


Austroads is a joint initiative between a variety of Australiasian organizations and businesses set up to maintain all forms of road safety. Part of this involves regular, state-mandated medical check-ups to assess your FTD.


The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) created the Medical Standards for Drivers so that it can be used across various jurisdictions as a manual for FTD authorities. The onus is on a physician in Canada to report anything they deem likely to affect a patient’s FTD.

Depression and Driving

Although the above agencies assess FTD on any and all medical grounds, mental illness is a big part of it. According to the World Health Organization, around 300 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression. Therefore, it stands to reason that it affects the vast majority of drivers at some time in their life.

The causes of depression are numerous and vary from person-to-person, with the severity also depending on the individual. If it’s linked with driving, perhaps you were involved or lost a loved one in a car accident. 

As noted by the Driver and Rehabilitation Program in the UK, common factors that have to be taken into account when dealing with depression and driving include:

  • Whether an individual can control their emotions and avoid driving when overly emotional
  • If coping mechanisms are in place and regularly used, in order to handle driving in potentially stressful environments 
  • Understand that a compromised mental state can lead to poor decisions while driving 

The good news is, depression and related psychiatric disorders are treatable. Plus, depending on how severe your condition is, and what type of vehicle you drive, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice something you enjoy.

Dealing With Anxiety

“Is depression a disability?” is a question many people ask. It’s classified as such under the respective discrimination laws in Australia, all parts of the UK, and Canada (more info), which means that, should you be unlucky enough to have an accident or some other motoring mishap while suffering from depression, help is available. 

What if your condition is severe enough that it leads to vehophobia, the actual fear of driving? Again, help is available. Whereas getting into an accident may require the services of a specialized lawyer, getting back behind the wheel of an automobile can be a lot simpler.

Coping Mechanisms

The main thing to do is identify what exactly is causing your fear and then take appropriate steps. For example, perhaps you’re worried about driving on the highway. You could try taking very short journeys along it to nearby towns, but with someone else in the car. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also one of the best ways for anyone to deal with anxiety, whatever the cause. CBT looks at ways to gain a deeper understanding of an issue and develop appropriate skills to cope.


People are affected by fear/anxiety in a number of ways, and when it directly affects something you usually derive pleasure from (such as driving), it can be exacerbating. However, whether you’re dealing with a negative impact of driving with depression or trying to face a fear, remember there’s always help available.

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