More than half of young drivers suffer from anxiety

cartoon female driving red car at night time looking anxious

Posted by Media Team on 15 May 2017

In a recent poll of almost 300 drivers, Marmalade, the young driver insurance specialists, found that almost 60 percent of young drivers suffered from anxiety behind the wheel.

The poll found that 58 percent of respondents under the age of 24 had suffered from driving-related anxiety in the past three months, and 43 percent of drivers aged over 24 had.

Learner driver and Marmalade customer Chloe, 19, said: “I found my first few lessons really difficult, as I didn’t tell my instructor about my struggles with anxiety. I could feel myself panicking every time another vehicle came near me on the road, or if I saw a bicycle in the distance. Eventually I told my instructor, and he was very understanding and gave me some techniques to help me become more a more confident driver.”

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place 8-14 May this year, Marmalade has worked with young drivers and driving instructors to put together tips to help anxious drivers overcome their fears and get back on the road:

First and foremost, if you’re a learner driver, make sure your driving instructor is someone you’re comfortable with. Carl, a 24 year-old Marmalade customer, said: “I went through three driving instructors before I found one who I actually felt comfortable learning to drive with. Being comfortable made a huge difference in my confidence.”

Qualified driving instructor and therapist Monika added: “I’ve found that some of my older students have put off learning to drive because they had a negative experience with an instructor when they were younger. Anxiety among young drivers is more common than most people think. If you’re struggling, let your instructor know; chances are they’ve worked with students in similar situations in the past and will have valuable advice on how to deal with it.”

If your anxiety is mild, don’t avoid driving. Avoiding driving will only serve to confirm your fear and make it harder to overcome. Instead, find ways to deal with your anxiety. Chris, an approved driving instructor that specialises in using neuro linguistic programming to help drivers with anxiety , said: “It’s inevitable that you’ll encounter stressful situations while driving. It’s essential to have coping mechanisms that work for you, even if it is as simple as focusing on controlling your breathing.”

Think about past successes or repeat a positive mantra before setting off to put you in a better frame of mind. “I found a huge improvement in my driving and confidence when I told myself that things WOULD go right, instead of assuming that something bad would happen,” said Chloe.

Find a quiet place or time of day to practise manoeuvres and skills that cause you’re most anxious about, such as parallel parking or turning around in tight spaces. According to recent research conducted by Marmalade, roundabouts are one of the top causes of stress for young drivers.

Carl said: “The area that used to make me feel most anxious was coming up to big roundabouts where you have to focus on signs, lane positioning, clutch control and giving way.”

Chloe agreed: “My instructor recommended that I make mind maps for manoeuvres that I find particularly difficult. I found this extremely helpful; when I would approach a roundabout, instead of panicking, I was able to go through all of the steps in my head, slow down and stay calm.”

Driving instructor Chris added: “Mind-mapping is a powerful tool that helps people get out on paper what the problem is, allowing them to explore potential causes and triggers of anxiety.”

Take things slow: if driving long distances worries you, start with shorter drives and gradually build them up. If you aren’t confident about driving on the motorway, try driving short distances later at night when traffic is lighter.

“Setting small, achievable goals is the key. Even if it’s just getting the car moving, or driving around a roundabout, every time you get in the car you will be able to see yourself improving and eventually bigger things like taking your driving test won’t seem so overwhelming,” says Chris

Chloe said “Before my driving lessons, I drive my car up and down the drive, just to get used to the pedals and being in the driver’s seat. By the time my instructor arrives for my lesson, I feel much more comfortable in the car.”

Finally, if your anxiety becomes overwhelming when you’re behind the wheel, find a safe place to stop and only carry on driving when you’re ready to.

Crispin Moger, CEO of Marmalade, said: “Being fit to drive is about much more than being physically able operate a car and understanding the rules of the road; mental health is just as important. Our survey highlights that young people are particularly susceptible to anxiety when it comes to driving, and it’s important that Marmalade is supportive in getting them comfortable and confident behind the wheel.”