A lesser known injury after a car accident is the development of vehophobia. Vehophobia is the medical word for a serious and unrelenting fear of driving, to the extent that it interferes with one’s quality of life. This uncommon problem is real and it’s devastating. 

From a clinical standpoint, a fear of driving after a car crash is a type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumas like child sexual abuse or dog bites give rise to PTSD. 

Why the Fear of Driving Remains

Depending on a person’s particular constitution, there could be many reasons the fear of driving remains. Among sufferers of vehophobia, similar thoughts have been reported. A few of these thoughts include:

  • Even thinking of driving is paralyzing. A common feeling is debilitating anxiety at the mere thought of driving.
  • Overwhelming fear of another accident.This fear could even lead to irrational potential fears of other accidents.
  • Fear of suffering a panic attack while driving. One reasonable fear is that of a panic attack while driving. If judgment is impaired as a result of suffering a panic attack, the vehophobe may in fact be involved in another accident. 
  • Fear of hurting others. Whether a stranger, passengers, or their family, vehophobes often fear they will hurt or kill someone else while driving.

It can be impossible to push these thoughts from the mind, despite every conscious effort. These terrible experiences can be compared to a panic attack or severe anxiety disorder.

A major concern is how suffering from vehophobia can severely restrict one’s daily life. Most people could not think about life without the ability to drive and use our cars often. Imagine being unable to grab a friend from the airport, take soup to a sick parent, or bring your kids to the park. Thankfully, treatments for vehophobia have been developed.

Vehophobia is recognized and accepted across the healthcare, safety, and personal injury communities. Research has been conducted to learn effective ways to help people overcome a fear of driving. Next are some legitimate, doable methods that can help car crash victims get on the road again. 

Psychological Therapy

Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, is a traditional treatment for mental and emotional disorders. It equips victims with the skills to manage symptoms so they can do more and feel better. More than one type of talk therapy can be used to treat vehophobia, either separately or in conjunction with another type. 

When combined with the appropriate medication, talk therapy can be more effective. To alleviate extreme anxiety, medication is sometimes required. Along with the therapies described below, anxiety-alleviating medications are often used. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

To identify the thinking and behavior patterns causing dysfunction, therapists help vehophobes use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Using CBT, people can change their patterns of thinking and switch to more desirable thoughts and acts. 

Role-playing or practice between a therapist and client allows the client to practice the thought-changing skills. As it relates to their perceived danger of driving, vehophobes can use CBT to change those distorted thought patterns. Instead, they can switch to more reasonable thoughts about the true dangers of driving. 

Prolonged exposure therapy (PE)

One subset of CBT is prolonged exposure (PE) therapy. In prolonged exposure therapy, patients take small steps to change their trauma-related memories, and feelings. 

PE starts with the vehophobe recalling the traumatic experience. Next, PE requires the patient to experience the traumatic event again. They eventually re-process the experience by recalling the memory and re-experiencing the fear. 

There are two kinds of PE: imaginal exposure and in vivo exposure. In the first, the patient is guided by the therapist to give a detailed description of the event in the present tense.

During the imaginal exposure narrative, the patient is recorded. Between sessions, the patient is expected to listen to their recollection of the event and process the emotions. Back in therapy sessions, the therapist and the patient discuss the emotions invoked by the imaginal exposure. With the help of the therapist, the patient processes these emotions. 

With in vivo exposure, the patient confronts their traumatic trigger outside of the therapist’s office. Together, the therapist and patient brainstorm the potential triggers and environments that stimulate fear. 

After they decide on which triggers will be confronted, they develop a plan for the patient to use between sessions. In a step-by-step way, the patient develops the skills to cope with triggers. 

Defensive Driving Classes

Defensive driving classes can sometimes help overcome driving-related PTSD. Drivers learn skills to defend against their fears in defensive driving courses. Courses can help drivers feel more in-control and have greater confidence in their own driving skills.