Can You Be Afraid of Driving After a Car Accident?

driving after a car accident

Car accidents can be incredibly traumatic experiences, leaving victims with physical and emotional scars that take a long time to heal. One of the most common reactions to a serious car accident is the fear of driving again. The fear of driving after a car accident is a genuine and understandable phenomenon that affects many people, regardless of how much experience they have as a driver. This blog post will explain why you may feel this fear and offer advice on coping. With a better understanding of the fear of driving after a car accident, you can take the steps necessary to get back behind the wheel with confidence.

What Is Vehophobia?

Vehophobia, also known as amaxophobia, is a specific phobia characterized by the fear of driving. The intensity and range of this fear can vary from person to person, from an aversion to all aspects of driving to only freeway driving. Even riding as a passenger in a vehicle can induce anxiety for those with vehophobia. This phobia can interfere with daily life, and individuals may go to great lengths to avoid stressors that cause them anxiety. Thousands of people in the United States experience vehophobia and require mental health services to help treat it.

Symptoms of Vehophobia

Vehophobia is a common type of anxiety disorder that can interfere with an individual’s daily life and cause significant distress. People who have vehophobia often find themselves avoiding activities that require them to drive, such as going to work or running errands. This can significantly impact their lives, leading to social isolation and disruption of everyday tasks. The symptoms of vehophobia may vary from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Intense anxiety when thinking about getting behind the wheel 
  • Panic attacks when in the car
  • Difficulty concentrating while driving 
  • Avoidance of highways and roads that are considered dangerous
  • Fear of losing control while driving 
  • Tense muscles in the shoulder, neck, or face
  • Physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, and dizziness 
  • Avoiding driving in certain situations, such as at night or in heavy traffic 
  • Feeling overly anxious or tense even when not driving

What Causes Vehophobia?

Vehophobia can occur in various circumstances, including after someone is severely injured or almost killed in a serious car accident. Vehophobia often results from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. 

A study published by the National Institute of Health found that up to one-third of people involved in a motor vehicle accident experience PTSD symptoms at least 30 days after the accident. Common causes of vehophobia include: 

  • Fear of death after a severe traffic accident
  • Losing a loved one in a motor vehicle accident
  • Driving in intense or dangerous conditions
  • Being the victim of road rage
  • Witnessing a large animal be killed by a vehicle

How does PTSD affect driving?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition triggered by a traumatic event such as a car accident. The fear of driving is a form of PTSD. It can manifest in various ways, such as fear of getting into another accident, fear of panic attacks, fear of harming or killing others, and generalized anxiety.

Individuals with vehophobia may experience intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares about the accident, which can cause them to become anxious when they are behind the wheel. They may also avoid certain roads or locations that remind them of the accident. Additionally, the fear of driving can lead to difficulty concentrating or focusing on the road.

How is Vehophobia Diagnosed?

Vehophobia is diagnosed according to the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). To be diagnosed with vehophobia, an individual must experience significant and immediate anxiety when encountering a situation involving driving or being a passenger in a vehicle. This anxiety must be irrational and out of proportion with the actual risk involved. Additionally, the symptoms must last for at least six consecutive months for a diagnosis of vehophobia.

Treatment for Vehophobia

Vehophobia, or the fear of driving after a car accident, can be challenging to overcome. However, available treatments can help individuals learn to manage their fears and get back behind the wheel. Some of the treatment options available to those struggling with vehophobia include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals recognize unhelpful patterns of behavior and thought and then modify them to reduce anxiety. CBT helps individuals identify the sources of their fear, challenge any irrational thoughts they may have, and learn ways to cope with their anxiety. 
  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a form of therapy that gradually exposes an individual to the source of their fear to desensitize them from it. This therapy can help individuals learn to manage their anxiety by slowly building up their tolerance for the object or situation that causes fear.
  • Relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help manage anxiety related to vehophobia. These techniques can help an individual learn to relax and remain calm in the face of their fear.
  • Support groups: Support groups can benefit individuals dealing with vehophobia, as they provide a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and receive support from others in a similar situation.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication may help manage the symptoms of vehophobia. A doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants to help calm the symptoms of vehophobia. 

Speak With a New York Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident and are dealing with vehophobia, it is important to speak with an experienced New York car accident lawyer. At Finz & Finz, P.C. our knowledgeable attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of car accidents, including those resulting in vehophobia. We will carefully assess your case and guide you through the process of recovering compensation for your damages. Contact us today for a legal consultation with a New York car accident attorney.


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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.