Growing up, I daydreamed about driving a convertible with the top down and my best girlfriends as my passengers. I was spoiled and was driven nearly everywhere by my parents and wasn’t introduced to public transit until I started high school. 

Equipped with 5-6 driving lessons, I eventually got my driver’s license after graduating high school and was driving “part-time” to and from work, and for a few errands. As time passed, my lifestyle changed and I gave up driving, only driving occasionally such as when Dan was too drunk to drive or when I really didn’t want to take public transit. I also had a few close calls when I was on the road that contributed to my driving anxiety. It also didn’t help that Vancouver transit is so reliable, you can truly get away without driving in this city. Eventually, Dan did most of the driving for us to the point that I was dubbed a “passenger princess” and my driving anxiety got the better of me. 

Got my license back in November 2011!

I was ashamed of my driving anxiety for several reasons. First, my parents spent money on getting me lessons so I felt I wasted their money. Second, I had my driver’s license for over 10 years but it didn’t equate to 10+ years of experience. Thirdly, I was constantly comparing myself to younger kids who knew how to drive and I didn’t, which led me to feel embarrassed and envious. Why am I envious of a high school senior?! 

Eventually, I found an online community for anxious drivers and realized just how common driving anxiety is. I remember my manager telling me that she was also very anxious driving after the birth of her first child and how a famous YouTuber also re-learned how to drive since she was ridden with anxiety as well. There were hundreds of people in similar positions as me.

After the birth of Theo, I knew I needed to get back on the road. I couldn’t rely on Dan’s driving as much anymore; it wasn’t realistic to book all of Theo’s appointments on the weekend when Dan was not working, have Theo miss out on peer groups, or have him be stuck indoors from Monday to Friday. As reliable as Vancouver’s transit was, I also didn’t want the stress of bringing a stroller on a crowded bus or a train, or carrying and installing a car seat every time we headed out via rideshare or taxi.

So, I made it my goal to finally get rid of my driving anxiety and here’s how I overcame it.

Find your why. 

I had my license but I didn’t have any reasons to continuously use it because Vancouver public transit was convenient for me. I worked downtown where it made no sense to drive, and whenever I needed to go somewhere, I hailed a taxi, Uber, or Lyft. Since dating Dan, I also had someone who didn’t mind doing all the driving. 

Since giving birth to Theo, Theo has been my why. I needed to drive for Theo. He had appointments to get to or play groups to attend so he could learn to socialize. Sometimes, Theo needed to shop. I needed to shop. We also need to have fun and socialize instead of just staying indoors. 

Driving for Theo has been my motivation. Everything else that comes with driving such as increased job opportunities, freedom, etc. came secondary. 

Identify your triggers.

Nobody is born with driving anxiety. It’s something that happens after some time for various reasons. Driving anxiety is such a broad term so I found it extremely helpful to identify exactly what causes my anxiety when I’m on the road so I can practice how to overcome it.

My driving anxiety stems from a few things: 

  • Seeing rows of cars behind me and thinking someone is riding my ass or I’m holding up traffic.
  • Switching lanes.
  • All sorts of parking, especially if people are watching and waiting. 
  • Tight corners.

Seek a professional or someone you trust.

Even though I knew how to drive, I opted to get a few refresher lessons. Having a new instructor showed me different driving and parking techniques, and these refresher lessons gave me a boost in confidence after not being on the road for so long. Eventually, I felt confident enough to stop taking lessons and have Dan in the car with me as my support person. 

Start small.

Don’t get ambitious and plan a road trip if you’ve been off the roads for a while. If you’re severely anxious, start by sitting in the car and familiarizing yourself with your vehicle. Or, start small and drive around some familiar quiet streets to get back into the swing of things. After not driving for so long, I started in residential neighbourhoods finetuning my turns and getting myself back into the mental space of driving. As I got more comfortable, I started to drive on busier roads. 

Starting small can also mean driving at night time for a bit or choosing quieter hours when people are at work. Any bit of progress is an improvement! 

Logs your hours consistently. 

This seems like a no-brainer but I underestimated how powerful consistency is when it comes to driving. Driving is a skill and like any other skill, it improves with time as long as you’re constantly using it. Everyone says that eventually, driving becomes second nature, similar to how you may come to know a cash register like the back of your hand if you work retail for 40 hours a week, for example. 

After recovering from birth, Dan, Theo, and I would go out driving for a minimum of 1 hour, every day or every other day. I was also the one to drive us to any errands or appointments. The only time when Dan drove was when I didn’t feel confident enough (eg. in Costco parking lots!) or when I was getting overwhelmed. 

Focus on yourself and don’t worry about what others think. 

As I mentioned earlier, one of my anxiety triggers was seeing rows of cars behind me and thinking I was impeding traffic even though that was not the case. It took Dan several times to remind me that I can’t control what others do as long as I’m doing everything correctly (eg. maintaining a good speed, communicating with my blinkers ahead of time, etc.). I tend to stay in the right lane as much as possible and I am constantly reminding myself that so long as I’m doing everything safely and correctly, anyone who feels I’m going “too slow” can switch to the left lane and pass me. I remind myself to always prepare myself and only leave my parking space when I feel ready – I remember getting flustered because someone was waiting for my parking spot and my mirrors weren’t lined up properly (after Dan used the car). 

One of my favourite online instructors once said, “Let them have an accident somewhere else”. 

Get a car you’re comfortable with. 

This may be controversial but if you have the means to do so, get a car you’re comfortable with, or a car to start fresh. To give you context, after I got my license, I drove a Honda CRV and unfortunately, almost had two close incidents. Since then, I felt very overwhelmed and anxious with the CRV due to the size and being reminded of the close encounters. Shortly after Theo was born, we went car shopping for a car that I truly felt comfortable in which ended up being slightly smaller than the CRV. I know everyone says to get an SUV but I felt SUVs were too big for me and would have triggered my anxiety so I opted to get a crossover vehicle which was the perfect size for me. I dream that I eventually get so confident and skillful in driving that I can drive an SUV when it’s time for an upgrade.

Upgrade your car with new technology.

I am grateful for learning how to drive and park without assistance. Getting a new car that came equipped with 360-degree cameras had me less stressed when parking (which is another anxiety trigger for me). If you’re not in the market to get a new car, you can upgrade your existing vehicle with cameras. Another technology that helped me was safety sensors when I or someone else was getting too close to the vehicle. 

New driver, please be patient.

Some may laugh but I found getting those “New driver, please be patient” stickers to be tremendously helpful! I know that if I saw that on the road, I would ease off that person. It’s starting to be a common sight in Vancouver, and I got mine from Amazon.

Watch YouTube videos to understand the theory and the execution. 

My friend suggested watching YouTube videos and I remember thinking it was silly. I decided to give it a shot and found it incredibly insightful. Not only was I learning new techniques and helpful tips but I also understood the theory of a process and then saw it in action. Understanding the theory of the technique allowed me to remember it in greater detail and recall it when I was out on the road. 

My favourite online instructor for overall driving is Dr. Rick August at Smart Drive Test, and specifically Signal Driving School for parking.

Plan your route. 

Despite growing up in the city, I plan my route ahead of time so I know exactly when and where to perform specific maneuvers. Switching lanes gives me anxiety and even though it’s a skill I am constantly practicing, limiting the need to switch lanes during a trip helps me out tremendously.  

Step out when it’s overwhelming.

Lastly, when I get overwhelmed, I step out and take a break, or have Dan drive. The more flustered I get, the more anxious I will associate driving with so I pull over when I can to take breaks. I also remind myself that there’s no finish line – I just need to keep driving to improve my skill so I stopped putting unnecessary pressure to be a pro driver in two weeks. 

Although it seems daunting at first, overcoming driving anxiety is possible! Just remind yourself to start small and stay consistent. As I drive more, I envision a future where I’d be in the position to be able to teach my son and reflect on how far I would’ve come by then. 

Let me know in the comments below if you have driving anxiety or if you’ve had it and how you managed to overcome it!

With love, Claire


  1. I’ve never learned how to drive, and now I feel like I am too old to do it. I definitely have generalized anxiety and know I would feel it when learning how to drive (this probably played a small part in why I didn’t learn when I was younger). These are great tips though, and if I ever try it out, I will use these!

    • Hi Molly, it’s never too late to learn how to drive but I completely understand how daunting it can be when you first start out! When you’re ready, I hope you have a smooth experience and develop the skills and confidence to hit the road in no time.

  2. My daughter is learning how to drive and I can see that she gets nervous when we drive on the highway. I will make sure to tell her these tips next time we go driving together!

  3. I completely agree that you need to find your why. When I reached 17 and everyone around me was learning to drive, it just wasn’t something I was interested in. I did end up having lessons about 8 months later but just because I thought I should. I had an awful instructor who made me cry and was very inappropriate and then had to stop due to the pandemic. Cut to August 2023 when I now have a reason for wanting to drive and a much kinder instructor!

    • I’m sorry you had an awful instructor! They really do make or break the driving experience.
      I’m very happy to hear you got a better instructor!! Good luck with your lessons and driving 🙂

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