The following came to me as editor of our local community newspaper, and although it is not something we publish, I thought it deserved a wide airing
Fear of driving
An increasing number of people are afraid on our roads. MAD- or motorway Anxiety disorder affects millions of drivers- mainly women, but over 12 per cent of the general population admit to ‘extremely anxious’ symptoms when driving.. including excessive sweating, headaches and stomach pains.
The highest levels of anxiety can be found in younger and older female drivers…with not surprisingly, the lowest being in male professional drivers.
There are many causes of driving anxiety, from witnessing or being in an accident, to an unexplained panic attack. The latter can be the most insidious. Pat reports how she had a panic attack on the M24 – a road she knew well. Now the fear it may happen again has stayed with her, so she now avoids driving. She’s in a vicious circle of avoidant behavior which will just make her feel even more incapable- and dangerous on the road.
Lack of practice often undermines a drivers confidence. After recovering from a long term illness, Alf found that his belief in his ability to judge speed and distance was badly affected. Only when he went for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy did he unpack the sense of his own mortality and the fear his illness had left him with.
An independent television production company called Matchlight (whose team have been responsible for productions like Stephen Fry’s series on manic depression and the recent John Humphry’s documentary on education) are tackling this issue in conjunction with the Automobile Association. In a major new series they are going to be exploring how people lose their confidence, and follow the stories of those battling to get back behind the wheel. It’s not just going to be about phobias- there are many reasons for being out of practice and losing confidence- being ill, not having been able to afford a car, a spell in prison, having been abroad for a long time are only a few reasons.
If you are one of the many drivers in the country getting more afraid of driving and you would like to talk about taking part, call the development producer Anne Buckland at 0141 332 0319 or e-mail her firstname.lastname@example.org before 20th November 2010.
Personally, I am of the opinion that many drivers need extra training and as Tesco keeps telling me, “every little helps”.