Unlike the typical American teen, I did not receive my driver’s license in high school. While my friends spent afternoons in driver’s ed, behind the wheel or a desk, I walked home through the heat of the Hawaiian sun.
Even throughout college, I commuted by bus or, if I was lucky, caught a ride with a friend. It wasn’t until a few months before I turned twenty-five that I finally passed my road test and received my driver’s license.
Most people would be excited, overjoyed even—but me? I was simply relieved. Due to being in a car accident a few years prior, I found driving to be daunting. It was an anxiety-inducing activity that I would be content to live without.
Now, I live with driving anxiety that comes every time I get behind the wheel. Most days, it’s manageable and I’m able to conquer it just minutes into the drive. Other days, I’m hyper focused on the road, holding onto the steering wheel for dear life. Although driving anxiety might seem inconvenient, there are some upsides, too.
We’ve all come across our fair share of reckless drivers. The ones who think they’re starring in The Fast and The Furious or playing a game of Initial D. But having driving anxiety means erring on the safer side.
That might include driving at or slightly above speed limit, coming to a full stop at the stop sign, maybe even signaling even when there are no cars visible in the rearview mirror. I tend to follow the rules to the tee, and although it might take longer to reach my destination, at least I will reach it safely and in one piece.
Consistently on time
Coming from the islands of Hawaii and being born into a Filipino family means one thing: you are (almost) always late.
There is this laid back nature that comes with being on an island in the Pacific that’s infectious. So much so, that it has always been a common rule of thumb that when planning an event, you should inform your guests of a fake start time, of at least thirty minutes, so that they would arrive at the actual time.
But with driving anxiety, you’re either really early or just on time. I tend to look up the route the night before the event/gathering, figure out how long it’ll take me to get there, and add in extra time to get lost or find optimal parking.
Now, this might not be ideal and even sound silly to some, but this is to account for my driving anxiety and to ease the stress that comes with it. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with being punctual.
Makes you hyper aware
If there’s one thing that anxiety does is that it makes you hyper aware. Aware of the space between you and the car in front, the one off to the side, and the little speck of metal in the rearview mirror. This might seem like an obvious thing to consider while driving, but it can be so easy to go on auto-pilot and let muscle memory guide you to your destination.
As important as it is to know how to control a vehicle, it’s just as important to know what’s happening around you. Since we’re unable to control how other people drive, we need to be aware of everything happening on the road in order to safely arrive at our destination.
Considerate of others
I’ve seen what road rage does to people and how someone who seems sweet and innocent instantly changes when another car cuts them off. The curses that follow afterwards are both incredible and frightening at the same time.
Although I grew up being driven by those with road rage, surprisingly, I didn’t pick up the habit. Perhaps it’s due to my non-confrontational nature or generally relaxed personality, but I’d also like to acknowledge my driving anxiety as a factor, too.
In this case, consideration and carefulness go hand in hand. I tend to keep a one car distance at all times, allow people to merge into my lane, and if someone speeds up to cut in front of me, I tend to have thoughts like “Wow, they must really need to use the bathroom.”
I do all of this in order to be as safe as possible, while also keeping my driving anxiety low and practically non-existent. And let me tell you, anxiety and road rage is never a good mix.
At the end
It took me a long time to realize my driving anxiety for what it was and that it was something I needed to tackle head-on. At first, I was afraid of what it meant and hated myself for developing such a condition.
But as I continued to overcome my driving anxiety, I realized that while I could not get rid of it completely, I did not need to back down from it. As long as I am willing to fight, it will not have a hold over my life.