How to Overcome the Fear of Riding in Cars (Fear of Being a Passenger)

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Panic attacks or feelings of extreme fear are crippling mental conditions that can grip you at any time if you are prone to them. But it can become far more terrifying when you have to get to a place and the thought of sitting in a vehicle grips you with sudden anxiety. If the prospect of sitting in a car terrifies you and paralyzes you from taking any action, you might be suffering from the fear of being a passenger. 

Psychology terms this fear or nervousness as amaxophobia. When you have to sit in a car that is being driven by someone else and you get this strange feeling of being in danger, you might be a victim of amaxophobia. But living with fear makes one’s life difficult and the only real option is to confront this unusual fear. 

In this article, we have put together various tips and ways to tell you how to overcome the fear of riding in cars (fear of being a passenger).

Why Do you Get Afraid as a Passenger?

Before we delve into the ways to overcome the fear of riding in cars, let’s first understand the reasons behind this fear.

You had a Traumatic Past Experience

There can be a number of reasons why you feel afraid to be a passenger in a car. But if the thought of sitting in a car as a passenger brings back haunting flashes of a past accident or a near-death experience on the road, then the strongest reason behind your amaxophobia is a traumatic past experience. 

You Have a Generally Controlling Nature

You are a fine driver yourself and feel comfortable driving on your own. It’s only when someone else takes control of the wheel when you begin to experience extreme anxiety and a strange fear of being in danger. It is possible that you have a controlling nature and it’s difficult for you to trust others with any heavy machinery. It’s also possible that you are not a high maintenance person, but this distrust can be specific to driving only. 

You are an Anxious Person

Many people suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder, a condition recognized in psychology as the most common problem in people these days. People suffering from this issue are usually triggered in high-stress environments like flying in a plane or riding on a bike or in a car. If you get anxious just by sitting in the passenger seat of a car, your general anxiety is the reason behind your fear. 

You are Riding with Untrained Drivers

There are times when you have to sit in a car with an unprofessional or untrained driver. Knowing that driving is a potentially dangerous exercise, riding with an untrained driver who may lack good driving skills or takes unnecessary risks might put you in a state of extreme anxiety and take a toll on your mental state. Your anxiety, in such a situation, is not caused by any internal factor. It is rational and legitimate and may very well go away as soon as you get out of the car. 

Symptoms of Amaxophobia or Fear of Being a Passenger

Before you learn how to overcome your fear of being a passenger, it’s important to know the symptoms of the fear as well, so you know exactly what is happening to you. This will help a therapist pinpoint the exact problem you are facing and also help you perform the preliminary tricks to calm yourself down as well. 

The symptoms of Amaxophobia are as follows:

  • Panic attacks
  • Avoidance of riding in a car being driven by someone else
  • Inability to calm down
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Prickly sensations in the body
  • Heart palpitations
  • Aches and pains in the head or the body
  • Dry mouth or sticky mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sudden breathlessness

How to Overcome the Fear of Riding in Cars

It may appear to you that you may never be able to get rid of the fear of being a passenger. But in reality, it is not that difficult, if you are willing to improve and have patience as well. We understand the mental battle it takes to fight off this fear, but if you stay positive and follow the below-mentioned tips and techniques, you might actually have a chance at getting rid of this fear. 

Accept this Fear

Strange as it may sound, but the first step in curing any fear is accepting that you have it. People with fears tend to go into a general denial about not having any. Perhaps in their minds, accepting the fear might trick them into thinking that they are cowardly. So they continue to deny the existence of such fears unconsciously and are generally unable to identify the symptom when they begin to manifest them. 

The first step is to acknowledge the existence of this problem. Accept that you are suffering from amaxophobia. Read up on it, do your research, identify the symptoms, and tell yourself that it’s okay. 

Begin with Your Breathing

When the person who is about to drive you has a record of rash driving or is not in a fit state to drive, then you have every reason to be worried or afraid for your safety. But if they are a good driver, then you need to find a way to calm down your nerves. 

There is no other method better than deep breathing. Whenever you notice that your nerves are beginning to jitter or your breathing is becoming shallow, focus on taking deep breaths. Start by drawing in a deep breath and hold it for longer than usual. 

Exhale slowly and let the tension in your body release alongside your breath. This exercise alone is very effective for calming your nerves. Deep breathing helps you calm down and clears your mind of all the stressing thoughts. 

Distract Yourself

Another way of overcoming the anxiety of being a passenger is by distracting yourself without distracting the driver. This could be as simple as switching on the radio or listening to music on your phone. 

Music has this ability to immerse the listener in it and help them become unaffected by their surroundings for a while. You can also listen to a podcast or any other radio show that you like or listen to a track that relaxes you. This way, you won’t feel the long journey you have to make, and you’ll also feel calm throughout the ride. 

Take a Test Drive with an Understanding Driver

If the reason you feel anxious riding in a car being driven by someone else is your inability to trust their skills concerning such a dangerous exercise, you might want to consider taking a test drive with someone whose driving skills you do trust. 

Choose a quiet time of the day when roads aren’t too busy and you can chat about the feelings that may come up during the journey. Riding with a close friend or a trusted family member will help greatly since you won't have to worry about your safety with them. 

Tell them to go slow and try to ease yourself in the seat as they pick up the pace. If you find your hands clutching the door handle too tightly, try to loosen your grip over the handle and sink back in your seat. Close your eyes if it helps and take a deep breath. 

Choose Your Seat Carefully

If you are riding in a car with other passengers as well, choose your seat very carefully. If you are not a claustrophobic person, then choosing to sit in the middle of the back seat with others cushioning you from either side might help you feel safer than sitting in the passenger side of the car. 

Try leaning back in the seat and relaxing your legs to make yourself calmer. It might help you not to look out the window to see the traffic on the road. Close your eyes, if that helps, and relax your head at the back of the seat. 

Don’t Avoid Riding as a Passenger

If the level of your fear has reached a point that you haven’t set foot in any car for a long time, then it might just be the right time for you to face your fear. Remember, no matter how anxious the thought of riding in a car makes you, the second you sit in a car as a passenger, you’ll already have defeated your fear. The more you ride as a passenger, the more confidence and trust it will bring to you. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is generally considered as the most effective treatment for treating generalized anxiety disorder. But specific anxieties like amaxophobia can also be treated with CBT. This is because CBT focuses on your behavior and changes the way you look at a fear-inducing or fearful situation. It works on the way you react to a certain fearful situation and reinforces a behavioral change. 

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

If your fear of riding in a car is the result of an accident you have experienced in the past, then the above-mentioned tips might not be enough for you to calm yourself down. 

You need a specialized treatment that targets the fears at their origin and works to cure them at the deepest level. It’s possible that every time you come near to riding in a car as a passenger, the flashbacks of the accident begin to cloud your mind. 

Reliving trauma is not uncommon these days. Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a technique that deals well with this kind of problem. You can either play yourself a guided track that gently leads you through the entire process in a few minutes or meet a professional who can do that to you. 

Hypnosis can Help

Therapeutic hypnotherapy is a deep relaxation exercise that uses imagination to locate and then use your inner strengths and resources to cure your fears or anxiety. This type of therapy trains the brain that it is not in danger and the fearful situation is not so fearful anymore. 

Through this deep relaxation technique, you’ll train your instincts to settle down and relax as a passenger in a car. This is done by reassociating being a passenger with feelings of relaxation and calmness. 

Exposure Therapy

As the name suggests, this type of therapy entails exposing the victim to the very fear they are suffering from. The premise of this therapy is the notion of facing the music, instead of avoiding it. 

But this technique is not done in isolation, because if not backed up by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, this might intensify the fear in a person. Exposure therapy is done in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where you go through the fear in your mind first and then expose yourself to the situation you fear.

With the help of a competent professional, exposure therapy gradually exposes you to ride as a passenger, slowly taking the power of this fear from over you and replacing it with a sense of calmness and relaxation. 


Fears are generally irrational and do not have a logical reason behind them. Riding in a car as a passenger is a fearsome activity for some people, the basis of which is irrational and illogical for the most part of it. 

However, having a fear concerning any action or thing is still a crippling feeling that should not be left unattended or uncured. Fears meddle with the quality of your life and stop you from enjoying simple pleasures. 

That is why it’s important to face your fear of riding in cars as a passenger, take actions accordingly, and follow the above-mentioned tips and tricks to overcome it. Remember that it takes time to overcome any fear and a good deal of practice to finally nip it in the bud. 

So allow yourself some time and be patient with yourself. Make sure you are doing everything you can to overcome the fear and fight off the feeling of avoidance when it comes to facing your fear of riding in a car.