Fear of Driving up Steep Hills and How to Overcome It
Driving up a steep hill can be a daunting task for even the most experienced driver – there's so much to keep in mind and a lot that can go wrong, especially during wet or stormy weather. Although you may feel that you’re alone in this fear of driving up a steep hill, many people actually have this very same fear.
What triggers fear?
People tend to get scared in situations where they feel that they are not in control, or if they think they will end up getting harmed in one way or another (or harm someone else) if they do a certain thing. This is one of the reasons people are so scared of driving up steep hills.
What if your car rolls back and hits the vehicle behind you? Or what if it veers off the road? Or what if you accidentally drive too fast and bump into the vehicle in front of you, or, again, end up going off the road completely? These are just some of the thoughts that could be running through your head while you have to drive up that hill, and that’s why it’s important to address this fear – or else you’ll have to live with it for the rest of your life.
Where does this fear come from?
The fear of driving up a steep hill can come from anywhere, really. It could be that you were involved in a car accident at or close to a steep hill. It could be that you had (or still have) bad dreams about driving up steep slopes and losing control, or that you have bathmophobia - which is the fear of slopes or stairs. It could stem from something subconsciously, and you have no idea why you’re so terrified. The point is, you’re scared and you don’t want to be.
What is Bathmophobia?
This is the fear of slopes or stairs and isn’t a simple or straightforward phobia. People who have this fear will become scared and experience symptoms associated with panic attacks when they are faced with steep slopes or hills. Some people even become affected just by looking at inclines, while others only feel fear when expected to climb or drive over them. If you think this may be the reason you’re having trouble with driving up steep hills, you should visit a trained clinician to find out more.
How to Overcome the Fear of Driving up Steep Hills
There are several suggested ways to get over the fear of driving up steep hills. Let’s take a look at some of them.
- Practice driving up hills
- Remember road rules for hills
- Find the source of your fear
- Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Find a therapist
Practice driving up hills
One of the most common tips given to people with fears that affect their lives is that they should face their demons.
While that is way easier said than done, people say this for a reason – it works for many of us. One way to confront your fear of driving up steep hills, and hopefully help overcome that fear, is to practice on small inclines and hills.
Drive over a small hill several times, and, once you feel confident about it, find a steeper hill and drive over it as well. Continue this while finding ever-inclining hills. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself driving over the steep hills that have made you anxious with a much more positive mindset. You might occasionally still get nervous, but you’ll be able to drive anyway.
Maybe you would be better at this practice if you take a trusted loved one with you for moral support. Being alone can be therapeutic, but having someone with you can make you feel better and (obviously) less alone. Just be sure to take someone who is calm and collected by nature. The company of someone who might end up stressing you out more isn’t a great idea.
Remember road rules for hills
There are specific rules for driving up inclines and hills to make the whole experience less dangerous for all involved. Be sure to study all the rules you can find.
This is not only important to make your drive up a steep hill easier, but safer, as well. Consider the following rules the next time you have to make your way over a steep hill.
Let’s take a brief look at some of the most important rules
Always make sure that your lights and horn are working perfectly, and don’t be shy to hit that horn at every turn and corner - better safe and embarrassed than sorry. The advice given by most experienced drivers is to honk at every turn and twist to make sure everyone on the hill is aware of you. Sure, they might think you’re a little loony, but you’ll all be arriving safely to your destination, and that’s what matters most.
For narrow roads, the right of way goes to the car/vehicle going uphill, but don’t expect that courtesy from everyone around you. Be careful and cautious, and think not only of yourself but of everyone around you.
Always make sure that your car’s tires have proper treads on them. You need a good grip when going up hills to avoid sliding and slipping. Keeping your tires in good shape is very important, in general, and even more so if you know you’ll be driving up slopes and hills.
When driving uphill (and downhill), use lower gears. Don’t go full throttle and avoid going in neutral or switching off your car.
However, it is recommended that you switch off your AC while driving up really steep hills.
Once you’ve gotten over that steep hill, one thing you do not want to do is drive downhill with your car’s engine switched off or in neutral, as mentioned above. We say it twice because it really is vital. Just stick to the lower gears and brake often.
Find the source of your fear
If you can figure out what it is that’s got you so scared about driving up steep hills, you can find a way to deal with it in a way that allows you to overcome your fear. It won’t happen overnight, but finding the source of your fear and dealing with it will do you a world of good. You can still practice all the recommendations we’re sharing here while you work on finding the true origins of your fear – it might just help you through everything even faster.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This kind of therapy is an intervention that aims to improve mental health. The therapy focuses on challenging (and changing) your cognitive behaviors and distortions, which will help improve your emotional regulation and help you cope with stressful situations better. In simple terms, this therapy changes the way you react to things, in a good way. But find yourself a professional – it's never a good idea to put your health (both physical and mental) in the hands of someone you don’t trust completely.
Find a therapist
One of the most recommended ways of dealing with fears like this is to see a therapist that is trained in handling these issues and helping people to overcome what’s holding them back. You should look for a therapist who is an expert in dealing with phobias – you can find a referral at your local mental health hospital. Again, be sure to make use of a therapist that you can trust – for your own sake and that of the people who will be driving with you on the steep hills in the future.
A few extra tips
Here is a quick look at some additional tips on how to drive up those steep hills that are giving you such a hard time:
Stop thinking in ‘fear mode’ - Holding onto fearful thoughts just feeds your fear even more. Try to clear your mind and only concentrate on the ‘now’. Take it one yard at a time and tell yourself that, once you’ve gotten past this yard, the next one will bring you closer to a flat road. However, don’t concentrate so hard on this that you forget about the drivers that might be around you.
Know your enemy – Do your homework and get all the knowledge you can about how to safely drive up steep hills. This article is a great start, but if you feel you need more information, the internet is home to a wealth of info – just use your discretion when choosing what advice to follow and what to take with a pinch of salt.
Practice – Practice, practice, practice. There isn’t any harm in practicing driving up and down steep hills – you will only be making yourself more confident.
Don’t lose hope. Remain determined to overcome this fear in your life by refusing to let it dictate you and your decisions. You only live once, and living in fear is a sad waste – though it is completely understandable.
Safety tips to consider while driving up steep hills
The most common reason that people fear driving up steep hills is that they are scared of something going wrong or somehow causing an accident.
Here are some safety tips on driving up steep hills that might just change the way you drive:
When you’re going to face a steep hill, downshift one gear and maintain this gear for any 3% grade in the uphill.
Keep your vehicle at a constant rpm of about 1000 to 1500 above normal cruise rpm. You should not exceed the normal rpm to avoid your car overheating – not what you want to happen while driving up a steep hill.
Try to keep your throttle steady at all times – this should help you remain within safe speed limits.
If you’re driving a front-wheel-drive car, go very easy on the gas as you make your way up. This is because you’ll be putting a lot of weight on your car’s rear axle – which could reduce your car’s traction on the front wheels. If you’re taking it easy, you’ll be relieving the front tires of their stress.
Once you’re going downhill, you’ll want to be careful again – keep your foot on the brake. Make sure your car’s engine is at a constant rpm as you go down the hill. However, do not brake as you go into a turn – this action will put more weight on the wheels and could increase your chances of skidding or oversteering.
A couple of don’ts to keep you safe
If you need to park at any time, do so where other vehicles (from uphill, as well as downhill) will be able to see you ahead of time.
Do not get distracted. This goes without saying, but oftentimes drivers can get distracted by even the smallest things, and this could be a big mistake – especially for someone who is already stressed out by the situation.
Riding the clutch is not recommended at all and is actually considered much more dangerous.
Don’t look down – looking at the valleys and hills around you could make your fear more intense and make it even more difficult for you to navigate your way up the hill.
If you’ve got a fear of driving up steep hills and want to know how to overcome it, the previously discussed methods should help you out quite a bit.
By staying safe, you’ll help yourself avoid getting panicky and making a stressful situation even more stressful. Many people would scoff at the idea of seeing a therapist for this fear, but it is a fear just as legitimate as fears such as the fear of heights (acrophobia), the fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), the fear of insects (entomophobia), or the fear of snakes (ophidiophobia), and should be taken seriously and treated with the same respect.
If you practice driving up hills, you might just overcome this fear and find yourself able to drive up steep hills and inclines without too much worry. These hints and tips are only a nudge in the right direction and shouldn’t be taken as the ‘end all’ of solutions, but as a way to find what works best for you.