Whether you’ve been driving for a small amount of time or are a confident driver with years of experience, having an accident can knock you back. It could make you anxious about getting behind the wheel again and may even stop you from driving altogether. But it’s so important to get back in the driver’s seat. Being able to go for an outing in the car allows you to maintain your independence without the need to rely on other people.
Read on to find out more about regaining your confidence after a car accident, as well as how to deal with anxiety while driving.
For some people, talking about their issues or concerns can be part of the recovery process. Speaking to someone about your accident could be the first step towards getting over the shock and getting your confidence back. It doesn’t matter if you choose to speak to a family member, a friend or a professional - speak to whoever you think is best.
Blocking out the trauma might only make it worse in the future. You should allow yourself to think about the accident and maybe even write down some of the details. By replaying the memories, your mind may begin to become desensitised to the incident and you may find it less upsetting as time goes on. It’s likely that when you make a claim on your car insurance, your provider will ask for these details anyway, so relaying it to them could help you too. In some cases, they may require a diagram to demonstrate how the accident happened. This all helps the healing process.
The popular saying “get back on the horse” suggests that you should be back in the saddle immediately after a fall. While this approach may work for some people, it might not work for you. You should take as much time as you need until you feel comfortable getting back in the vehicle. Don’t rush this, as it could set you back further. However, you shouldn’t wait too long either. A couple of weeks may be enough for you to feel comfortable driving again, but if you were to leave it too long, for example a year, you may be put off driving altogether. Ultimately, this decision is up to you and will be different for each person.
Once you do make the decision to start driving again, you shouldn’t rush the process. Start by driving a very short distance on roads that you know and are comfortable with. If possible, you should pick a day and time that will be quiet, such as midmorning during the week. Most people will be at work at this time and the roads should be relatively empty. You could take a short journey to the local shops or to visit a family member. To practice driving at night, you should go out around 9pm when the roads are clear.
It may be easier if you have someone with you in the passenger seat. This could be a partner or friend. Whoever you choose, they’ll be there to calm your nerves and offer support if you need it.
If the thought of this is still too much for you, try being a passenger to begin with. Gradually get used to being back in the car without the added anxiety of having to drive yourself. Try this for a few days first before starting to drive.
You shouldn’t expect to be the same driver that you were before the crash after a matter of days or weeks. Regaining confidence can take time and you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself. Keep driving on a daily basis, taking short journeys to start with and gradually increase the amount of time you’re driving for.
It may be helpful to go back to the place where you had the accident and drive around that area for a bit.
If you find that you’re still very nervous when in the car, you could try taking some additional lessons. The Pass Plus qualification covers aspects of driving that you don’t learn in standard lessons, such as motorway driving, night-time driving and even navigating country roads. These extra skills could give you some much needed confidence.
Anyone can feel anxious while driving, whether they’ve had an accident or not. For some, driving doesn’t come very naturally and every journey could make you feel anxious and distressed. Luckily, there are some ways you can overcome this anxiety.
Your anxiousness may stem from issues that you had while you were learning to drive. You might avoid using certain manoeuvres, such as parallel parking, or dodge certain roads because they would involve a hill start. It may be that you’ve had a bad experience while attempting these things and haven’t practiced them very often since. Taking some driving lessons that bring you back to basics could improve these essential elements of driving that may reduce your overall anxiety.
Some people have driving anxiety because they believe there’s something wrong with their car. How many times have you panicked that a tyre doesn’t have enough air or that your vehicle’s brake lights aren’t working? Checking these things before you set off could reduce any panicking during the journey. You could also purchase a newer car model that will alert you to these issues. Many new cars will tell you if your tyre pressure is too low, you’re running out of screen wash or any bulbs aren’t working. Having these kinds of alerts could make you relax more when you’re on the road. As well as checking certain safety elements, you should also take the time to adjust your seat and mirrors so that you can see everything around you, as well as feeling comfortable and relaxed in your seat.
If you find that your anxiety is creeping up when you’re in the car, there are a few things you can try to calm yourself down. Firstly, slow down. The faster you drive, the more information your brain needs to process about what is happening around you. Take your foot off the accelerator and drive at a slower pace. Avoid any unwanted distractions, such as your mobile phone. Music can be a distraction too, so try driving with the music off for a short while.
If your anxiety becomes too much, you should find a safe place to pull over and stop the car. It can be almost impossible to drive carefully when your mind isn’t fully focused on the road. Take some long breaths in and out using the 5-5-5 method - inhale for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale for five seconds. Repeat a few times until your heart rate has slowed down. Only set off when you’re feeling completely calm again.
There is never a good time to break down. If it were to happen, would you know what to do and be able to keep calm?
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