If you’re reading this, then there is a good chance that you have a fear of driving on the highway that you are trying to overcome. Just the mere thought of big vehicles driving very close to one another is enough to give you the shivers. And it’s even worse if you get caught between vehicles all struggling to get ahead of one another, constantly switching lanes trying to reach their various destinations as quickly as possible without any regard for their surroundings.
Did you know that the fear of driving on the highway is said to be the most common types of fear people have while driving? One of the most common things I have heard from people coming to me for specific anxiety refresher driving lessons is that they are most afraid of the highway. The busy lanes, people moving around constantly, trucks everywhere and the higher speeds make the highway quite intimidating indeed. All over the internet, there are various forums that focus their discussions on driving anxiety. On forums like this, most of the fears people have and ask advice for are not from driving itself or failing their driving test, but the fear of driving on the highway.
As a driving instructor, I sympathize with you. I sometimes wish we could avoid highways all together for those that are struggling, but unfortunately, highways are as much a part of today’s driving as suburbs are. Except for those living in remote and reserved areas, there is no hiding from it. It’s one thing to pass your driving test and get your license, but when it comes to driving on highways, it becomes a different ball game. It doesn’t help that driving on the highway is not even an official part of learning to drive! Many driving instructors actively avoid taking their learner drivers onto the highway if they can.
But, wait. Is the issue really that serious? You bet it is.
Taking the above into account, it’s no wonder a lot of companies are making a huge amount of money teaching people how to get over the fear of driving on the highway. If you live in a major city, chances are that you must drive on highways almost every day of your life. Whether you are the one driving or a passenger, you just can’t avoid highways, and you shouldn’t! Once you master the higher speeds, merging and changing lanes and you no longer get anxious at the wheel highways actually become very useful.
The time is there to overcome your fear of highway driving. To make things easier for you, I have broken down the fear of driving on the highway in three major categories.
Fear of High Speeds
One aspect that makes many people shiver when they think about it, is the high speeds you are required to travel with on the highway. Driving on the highway is absolutely not the time to drive on low speeds. While it may seem comforting to reduce your speed, driving too slow could actually be more dangerous. You have to keep up with the demanding speed. But here is the good news; studies have found that Fear of high speeds is nothing but psychological. Taking note of this will help reduce that fear whenever it comes up.
Here are ways to help you get over the fear of high speeds:
- Simply said, while your higher speed may look dangerous and you may feel obligated to do 70mph, there is no law that requires you to do such speeds. Obviously do not slow down so much that you create dangerous situations with other traffic having to overtake you left, right and center. but there is nothing to say you can’t drive a more comfortable 65mph and stick to the right-hand lane. Let those speedy devils around you do their own thing. So long as you are not obstructing people around you, there is no shame in just following a truck or bus ahead of you, provided you leave enough space in between.
- Just like mentioned above; Feel free to stay in the right-hand lane for as long as possible if you have fear of high speed. By so doing, you will create space on the left for other drivers to drive past you. You will be able to slow down a bit because you have given other drivers a space to overtake you.
- Anticipate traffic around you. Keep concentrated on what’s in front of you. Is the distance between the vehicle in front enough to allow for your braking distance? Take a glance into your mirror every few seconds. Is anybody looking to overtake you? If the answer is yes, don’t be afraid. You don’t have to do anything, but this is all about anticipating what is going to happen around you. Getting experience in seeing simple things like this will really help you get more comfortable at higher speeds.
Fear of merging onto the highway
Merging onto the highway can be a little tricky for a while, although once you get used to it, it’s not too difficult. The fear of merging onto highways comes from the fact that it looks very intimidating to find a suitable space from a merging lane that is quickly disappearing in front of you. An added fear of high speeds makes the situation even more complex. The feeling can feel threatening and claustrophobic. It can also feel confrontational especially when you want to navigate from one lane to another. In this situation, you need to stand your ground or risk being swept off the road.
Merging onto the highway is incredibly important to get right, and we must confront your fear. It is time to start learning how to face this fear. We have compiled some tips you should try out when merging onto the highways:
- Get your speed right. I said above that a fear of high speeds makes merging onto the highway more complex and this is definitely true. One of the most important things when merging into other traffic is to have a similar speed to the traffic you are trying to merge into. Rural interstate highways carry a 70 mph limit and a 40 mph minimum. This means that the right-hand lane, in all likelihood travels at around 50-60mph. If you carry the same speed as the traffic on this lane, merging will be twice as easy. Urban Interstate limits generally range from 55 to 65mph but may be lower in some areas. On highways like that, a speed of 45-50mph could be enough to merge perfectly, and safely. The image below ilustrates how the right speed can help.
- Target off-peak hours when driving on the highways. This has proven to be very effective in helping people who have the fear of driving on the highway. At such periods, you have fewer drivers and other traffic to contend with. Do note that off-peak driving hours often attract more trucks, especially at night.
- Take a companion along with you when you want to merge onto the highway. It could be a trusted friend, a family member, or a colleague that does not have a fear of high speeds and fear of driving on the highway. They will serve as another pair of eyes to watch out for you while you pay more attention to driving. Doing this a few times and later on trying it on your own will help get rid of the fear.
- A quick and effective way to deal with this fear is to take part in a defensive driving course. If you can practice with an instructor, you will find that you are able to merge onto the highway a lot more easily than you used to.
Fear of changing lanes
The last thing that makes people anxious about driving on the highway is changing lanes. This has got to be one of the scarier things you will ever have to deal with, especially when driving on the highway. It’s even worse when there is heavy traffic and you need to maneuver your way around other vehicles. If you think your fears fall into this category, here are some things that can help you:
- If you must overcome your fear of changing lanes, then learning to do this when the traffic is at its lowest will come in handy. It will give you more time to judge and anticipate the traffic around you and help you make decisions to change lanes without competing or dragging the road with other road users. Less traffic makes for less risk. It really makes sense when you think about it.
- A Satnav or driving apps on your phone can come to your rescue in these situations. Satnavs are not too expensive anymore, and there are many driving apps available on both Android and iOS. Search for the one most suitable and make use of it when you need directions on how and where to switch lanes when driving.