Do you get goosebumps at the thought of driving over a bridge? Or you suddenly find your heartbeat increasing at the sight of a bridge or overpass? If you were to choose, you would rather take the long way around rather than driving over that bridge? You could be suffering from a very serious fear of driving over bridges. the fear of crossing bridges is called gephyrophobia and you would be surprised how many people have symptoms of it.
Many people who are afraid of heights will naturally have the fear of crossing bridges as well, as they often find themselves high above the ground surface. Even people with claustrophobia, the fear of small changes can struggle with bridges. This may sound strange to you, as bridges are not enclosed, but because most bridges have only got two points of entry, many people with claustrophobia struggle with them as well. The fact that many bridges do not have a hard shoulder or laybys to pull over if something might be wrong often doesn’t help. The fear of driving over bridges and overpasses is one of the common fears any car driver has, but it also exists with pedestrians, bikers and any other mode of transport you can think of.
Unfortunately, bridges are often unavoidable, especially if there is a river or lake along the way, and if you must get to a particular destination. Taking a longer route around is not always an option and as a driver, you will have to find a way to overcome your fears. Don’t fret, there are ways to get rid of those anxious feelings.
There are always good samaritans that will do anything to help you. You can read the story of Torri Forbes, who almost changed her mind about going to a friend’s wedding because she had to drive over a bridge to get there. Luckily for her, a nice and understanding police officer pulled over behind her and reassured her that she can overcome her fear. The police officer spoke to her calmly, said that if she takes it easy and slowly, she could do it, and he would drive behind her the whole way and look out for her. Torri made it to the wedding and had an excellent time after overcoming one of her biggest fears.
Seek Help from Family and Friends
A fear of driving over bridges is not easy to shake. but it’s important to let others around you know that you have this fear. Your support system, in this case, your friends and family can understand your struggles better and help you overcome your fears. It could be a good idea to find a particularly supportive person to drive with you. Someone you know can calm you down and can talk you through it. It might even help to be a passenger as they drive you over to get used to it. Find someone calm and collected and by the time you have crossed bridges a few times with them, it will be a lot easier to start doing it alone. You could start by finding shorter, sturdy looking bridges as a lot of people fear the collapse of a bridge. Building up slowly, but steady will help you gain confidence.
Get All the Information You Can About Your Route and the Bridges You Cross
This is not easy for everyone, as even the sight of a bridge can make some shiver, but it can be a really good idea to look up as much information on the bridges you are about to cross to gain confidence and get rid of your anxiety. Information like the building date of the bridge, it’s construction company, their reputation at building great bridges and the safety measures used in constructing the bridge will be of great help. It may also help you prepare for your journey to know how much traffic goes by on a daily basis, and how many incidents there have been in the past. In almost every case, the answer to the last question is none.
Information like this can prepare your mind for the journey and help alleviate your fears. It might also help if you can get down from the car when you are at the bridge and survey the structural stability of the bridge.
Avoid Looking Sideways When Driving Over a Bridge
Because subconsciously a lot of people with gephyrophobia actually have other similar phobias as well, like acrophobia (fear of heights) or claustrophobia (Fear of confined spaces), it can help a great deal to avoid looking sideways as you cross a bridge or overpass. If your focus is on the road in front of you, it’s much easier to stay concentrated. Many people find that it helps to follow another car ahead or to have someone follow you. Focussing on the car ahead helps to make the driving experience feel more like a normal road. Watch the distance between like like you otherwise would, adjust your speed appropriately and you’ll be on the other side of the bridge before you know it. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the temptation of looking to the side or up at the sky when driving over a bridge.
It can also help to change your driving conditions. Winding down your window a little and allowing fresh air in can feel refreshing. Try talking to your passengers about something unrelated to your drive. If you are normally driving in the quiet, try turning your music a little. Not loud enough to be distracting, but enough to help you concentrate on the music, instead of your fear, which in most cases is irrational.
Practice Time and Time Again
You’ve crossed the bridge and nothing bad has happened. Rejoice! You’ve done great, but you’re not there yet. It’s one thing to successfully drive over a bridge once. It’s another thing to drive over it without being afraid anymore at any time in the future. The best way to make sure that the fear of driving over bridges and overpasses has become a thing of the past is by using the bridge over and over again.
Practice makes perfect, and overcoming fears takes time. It’s important to try the same bridge again, perhaps in a weeks time. And then move on to another bridge as well. By using multiple bridges as often as possible with or without a companion, you will be making huge progress at overcoming your fear of bridges.
Make Use of Mental Signposts
A technique I heard from another driving instructor around is to mentally make some signposts alongside the road. While driving over a bridge, you can count them off as you drive by. With every mental signpost, you pass you know you are getting one step closer to the end. You can make small victories as you reach a quarter of the way, then you reach half way. Counting the distance like this can really help focus you stay on track and reassure yourself that you are almost there, and getting closer every second.
Cannot Overcome Your Fear of Driving Over Bridges? – Hire a Driver to Help You
As a finishing note, if you think your fear of driving across bridges is not taken seriously, what would you say if we told you that there is a company in Maryland, USA that offers the services of drivers to help people cross over the 4.3 mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge for a small fee? The fear of driving over bridges and overpasses is very real, and many people are now tapping into it. The video below shows you what this bridge and the offered service is like. This bridge is not for the fainthearted. You don’t have to have a phobia to find this drive intimidating, many people do.
Now, any option like this should only be taken as a last resort because technically, you are not doing anything to overcome your fear of driving over bridges yourself. It will always be better to get a friend or family member to help you, as they will be more supportive about your exact fears. But if you have no one available, companies like the one above are now available. It will cost you some extra cash, but you can follow through, finish your journey and the money you paid could well be worth it to you.
Personally, I would always say people should avoid this option. the money you spend is just to cross the bridge, almost like a toll, and could better be spent with a dedicated driving instructor, therapist or a good training program like defensive driving or driving fear.
Finally, when any of these tips help you and you do finally drive over a bridge, take a moment to stop the car. Come out of your car and take a look at the hurdle you just scaled. You have made massive progress and that calls for a celebration! Go ahead and put a call across to your support group and let them know that you finally made it. The feel-good hormone in you will surely remember how you felt the last time you drove over a bridge if you were to use a bridge another time.