How to Overcome Fear of Driving: The Road to Driving Confidence
Life coach Joanne Mallon gave up driving for seven years when she became driving phobic. Having overcome her fears, Joanne decided to share her experience with the millions of other people who are afraid of driving or, like myself, phobic about motorways, whether driving or not.
As someone on the verge of attempting recovery but not sure whether I really care about cutting out motorways from my otherwise confident life behind a steering wheel, I found Joanne's book very helpful in at least putting driving refresher lessons on my To Do list, while I vacillate back and forth.
What fascinated me most was the sort of advice that could apply to any aspect of one's life, driver or not. Joanne must be a very good life coach, for after reading her book and a day with The Speakmans (look them up on Google: they cured me of chocoholia) I was certainly healed of inertia. I haven't ventured onto the motorway yet but I've hired a cleaner, shopped online, tried to hire a gardener (they tend not to turn up but I'll keep trying), taken my bedlinen and all my ironing to the laundry shop, found a car valet and begun a home detox. And made lots of lists.
Practical exercisesI found the practical exercises especially useful. Written from the viewpoint of a life coach, they added value to the text and personalised the content. Joanne covers why we become phobic, the cause and how it can be overcome. It includes lots of tips for things to do while driving, to help recovery and what to do if a panic attack tries to take over.
Case historiesCase histories are always helpful too. Fear of driving can be a lonely thing - people don't always like to admit to having it but it's one of the most common phobias therapists are faced with nowadays and it makes no difference whether you're male or female. Motorways weren't built when I learnt to drive so my driving test didn't include how to tackle them. I just drove up and down them without fear or favour until one day, several decades after my 18th birthday, after driving on the hard shoulder of a snow-covered motorway for several miles without knowing it and aquaplaning ungracefully onto an exit, I gradually began to avoid them until I cut them out altogether.
I also developed raging anxiety about places I'd never been to before, whether by car or public transport. After all, travelling by train cut out the energy needed to drive somewhere new but it had the added dimension of worrying about getting the right one and arriving on time, finding a taxi at the other end and getting back home again; so that doesn't altogether alleviate the anxiety about travelling to pastures new but it does cut out the terror of parking in high-rise or underground car parks, at night.
On one panic-stricken journey to a new venue, a profound thought suddenly occurred to me: nobody gets lost forever. (I stopped and asked the way and a wonderful woman pulled out an iPhone, which produced a map in an instant.) Almost tempted to get one but I got over that quite quickly.
Anyone for SatNav?One piece of advice was to emerge into the 21st century and 'Get a SatNav'! This, for someone who doesn't even own an iPhone, an iPad or a Kindle was a big leap for aging womankind. Great - I bought a Tom Tom only to find no instructions inside. Lots of people said 'give it here, I'll show you how it works'. What they actually did was have great fun putting in my home details and several destinations I was heading for but not actually teaching me how to do it myself, leaving me more perplexed and anxious than before. I tried it on a nearby suburb I knew well but it insisted on sending me straight on to a busy motorway, while I insisted on going via the A-roads. Morona, who lives inside the contraption and guides me, sounded more anxious than I was when I ignored everything she said so that she had to keep changing direction and shouting 'Turn round, turn round' at me. (Sounded remarkably like my mother.) I'm sure it will be a boon eventually but for now Morona is nestling contentedly like a baby kangaroo in a nice pouch I've bought for her.
Am I alone or are there other autophobes out there?Joanne has researched the subject thoroughly, not only drawing on her own experience of driving panic and overcoming it but advice from experts and cured motorphobes who tell their own stories. We tend to think we're alone with this phenomenon but we're not. A Spanish survey in 2011 revealed that 8.5 million people in Spain (33 per cent of people with a driving licence) say they are scared of driving in some circumstances: bad weather, heavy traffic, night driving and new journeys. And 1.5 million Spaniards (6 per cent of drivers) were afraid to drive at all. They included twice as many women as men, mainly those aged over 40; men were aged 60 and over and it was often related to health issues.
So if you want to know what all those people have in common with you, to learn about motorway phobias, how to deal with driving-related stress, regaining your confidence, dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, the kind of therapies you might try and other people's success stories in overcoming their fear, this is the book for you. There's also a good list of useful contacts and other resources. The one on my To Do list is Ride Drive - www.driving-phobia.co.uk
Part of the sales of Joanne's book are donated to charity. It's published by Nell James Publishers. Joanne's website is www.joannemallon.com You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org/ Twitter @joannemallon. She has a new book out soon called 'Social Media for Writers' - watch this space for review shortly.