The Fear of Driving at Night and How to Overcome It
For some, hitting the asphalt with their foot on the pedal and their hands on the steering is one of the most thrilling parts of their daily routine. For others, driving conjures a lot of feelings that have no relationship with fun, pleasure, or satisfaction. Though they may not necessarily hate to drive, each time the thought of getting behind the wheel crosses their mind, a whirlwind of anxiety comes running along.
Medical experts have documented this condition and given it a name. They called it vehophobia—the fear of driving.
Among this group of people are those who have no problem driving during the day, but can’t do the same at night.
If you are among this category, this article is for you.
The fear of driving at night is a common condition in both old and young people.
You can easily recognize that wave of tension that washes over you as you sit behind the steering, with your key already in the ignition. It only takes a twist to get the car roaring with life and ready to roll down the road. But then your heart begins to pound, a pool of sweat breaks through your skin, and a cloud of dark thoughts begin to loom over your mind. Ultimately, you pull your key away and slam the car’s door as you exit.
Experts have invested a considerable amount of time toward understanding the fear of driving at night and how to overcome it. But the very first step in handling this situation is to find its root causes.
What Causes the Fear of Driving at Night
Driving at night to some people can be relaxing. There is less traffic than there usually is during the day. Temperatures are always pleasant, and with the right music playlist, you can drive around town with no destination, just for fun.
However, not everyone loves the idea. Several people are terrified by it. Even in situations when the road is reasonably safe, people who have this phobia will not hesitate to reply with a resounding “no” once asked to drive at night.
There are many reasons why people develop a phobia for driving once the sky goes from blue to gray.
The reason for this intense fear could span from personal experiences to naturally occurring fearsome imaginations. Some of the most common causes of the fear of driving at night are discussed below.
Indeed, driving along the road at night has a level of risks to it. With the road covered in darkness, every driver drives with their car’s headlights beaming into the distance. While your headlights help to illuminate the way, it can pose some danger to other drivers.
Some drivers beam the headlights too brightly that it literally blinds other drivers coming in the opposite direction, making them temporarily lose control of the road they’re driving on. Vision is an essential element when it comes to driving safely. When that is taken from you, even for a second, there will always be danger lurking around the corner.
Another risk factor comes from the fact that drunk drivers are more abundant at night. A drunk driver draws danger, not just to himself, but to every other person on the road.
You may also be afraid of driving at night, depending on your location, due to the risks of getting carjacked by thieves looming at the dark corners of the roads you frequent.
Another common reason for fear of driving at night has to do with past experiences. People who have had some terrible experiences driving at night usually develop a strong intolerance to the idea of hitting the road when it is night.
If you have been robbed or carjacked, or have had a horrible accident in the past, driving at night is sure to pull up some memories you won’t enjoy revisiting.
It is true that people commonly lose their confidence in driving as they grow older, usually into their 50s. But when this gets so intense that you no longer want to drive, you end up developing a phobia.
With advancing age, you might become more uncomfortable about driving at night, which is completely common.
Chronic health conditions
Indeed, some chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic eye disorders, etc. can affect our confidence with driving in general. This can become worse when it comes to driving at night.
People with cardiovascular diseases are prone to heart attacks, and owing to this, they can develop an intense fear and intolerance to driving especially because driving usually comes with some form of tension that they feel they may not be able to handle.
The same can be said about people with visual conditions. They develop these fears because they feel they can’t trust their eyes while driving at night.
There have been several situations where one phobia has led to another. A claustrophobic—one who is scared of tight spaces— can develop levels of agoraphobia, which is the fear of crowded areas or situations such as traffic jams, rallies, etc.
A fear of driving at night can naturally originate from underlying conditions of nyctophobia, which is simply the fear of night or darkness.
Overcoming the Fear of Driving at Night
Indeed, with several people sharing the same lane, hitting the road in different physical and mental states, driving is generally a risky activity.
However, similar things can be said about several other things we do on a daily basis.
No matter what, there will be times when you have to get out very early in the morning. There will be times when you are stuck at work or in a meeting until nightfall. During these times you will have no choice but to move in a sea swarming with all the colors and shapes of your phobia.
Phobias, just like visitors, are not supposed to stay for too long. This is because, the longer they stay, the harder it is to get rid of them.
With that said, we will discuss some of the common and most effective ways to overcome the fear of driving at night.
Find them below.
Start with your car
It goes without saying, but your car is what makes you a driver. At the same time, your car sits at the center of your phobia for driving both during the day and during the night.
The first step is to get comfortable with your car at night. It is pertinent to ensure that your car is in good condition at all times. Thus, ensure you promptly fix each issue your car develops.
To get comfortable with your car at night, you can start by sitting in your car without moving it. Ensure you maintain proper breathing and relaxation. This enables you to manage the tension that would arise once you’re in your car at that moment. Practice this until you’re comfortable being in your car at night.
Exposure therapy, like its name entails, involves having you exposed to your fears until you make them disappear.
With respect to your phobia for driving at night, an effective exposure therapy would involve actual driving, at night.
By this time, you will have gotten comfortable with staying in your car at night. It is time to take it further.
You can progress to moving your car at this stage. Ensure you have someone you trust in the car with you to keep you occupied and comfortable so you won’t overthink and become tense. If you can get a professional, that would be much better.
Make sure you’re wearing your seatbelt. Keep your windows and mirrors clean, and make sure you keep the lights in the car dim.
Start with short distance driving, keeping your speed below the limit until you’re comfortable.
Gradually increase both distance and speed as you become more comfortable. This will take a while, but with persistence, you will see the phobia leaving you.
Why is it advisable to face your phobia?
Avoiding your fear will end up making it harder to break free. The longer it stays, the harder it gets.
However, it is crucial to know when to stop the exposure. This can be done by developing an anxiety scale. On a scale of 0 to 10, you should be able to tell when you’re about to reach a full-scale panic attack.
During your exposure, you may experience different levels of anxiety, dizziness, and panic. It is vital to watch out for the signs and have someone with you all through the process.
Document your fears
During your exposure, you will experience different forms of tension at different levels of exposure therapy. It is important to write down what you feel at each level.
You can proceed with the least of your fears. Know when you experience such fears and work on them until you overcome them. Move over to the next level and repeat the same process until there is nothing left.
Your lowest fears may come when you’re holding your key and standing just inches away from your car. Another level of anxiety may occur when you’re just sitting inside the car without moving it.
Obviously, your biggest fear would come when you’re on the road, with your feet on the pedals and your eyes peering into the distance.
Consult an expert
Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, these phobias may never go away without professional assistance. You might make progress alone, but they may never completely go away.
Phobias are things understood best by those who have either experienced them or have been trained professionally to treat them.
This is why most times when your friends or family see you acting agitated over what they consider ordinary, they never fully understand what is going on in your mind.
This can affect your life in several ways. Your fear of driving at night may stop you from hanging out late at a party or at a friend’s place. The frustration of having no control over this can even lead to depression.
If left unattended to, this phobia can grow into full-blown vehophobia, where you are unable to drive even during the day.
A therapist will walk you through the best practices of tension relief, take you through advanced exposure therapy, or simply get you to talk about your fears and explore every aspect of your condition.
Join a support group
These days, support groups are becoming very popular. There is a support group for practically every kind of people: single mothers, addicts, phobics, etc.
You can find and join a driving phobia support group nearest to you. Joining a community like this is good because you get to share stories and progresses with each other.
These groups are usually the best place to hear people talk about the fear of driving at night and how to overcome it, from experience.
You also get to exchange ideas and advice with people who understand precisely the way you feel.
In support groups, one person’s success inspires another, and it continues to spread like ripples until the very last person breaks the phobia.
The fear of driving at night can be embarrassing. But no matter what, there will be times when you need to hit the road even when the sky is pitch black, with no moon to give even the faintest beam of light.
It is important to strive to make your condition go away, so you can live a normal life like every other person.
It is also important to know that no matter what time of the day you’re driving, safety measures should always be observed.
Driving at night can be a refreshing exercise, and it is hoped that soon, you will be able to do that, having broken through your phobia.
As you get used to driving at night, ensure you make it fun by all means. Listen to music, have a friend around if you want. Gradually, you will find yourself eager to hit the road at any time.