Experts tell us their tips for teens with driving anxiety


Teens across the country are suffering from a new epidemic. It is not what one would expect. It is not alcohol or drugs, or even crime that is responsible for about 300,000 emergency room visits each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S teens. Sixteen teens die each day in crashes caused by car accidents between 16 and 19.

Research shows that anxiety among teens could also be a factor in their driving behavior.

Teens and driving anxiety

Driver anxiety is a very common condition for Americans today. However, it can be extremely difficult for teens with little driving experience. Teens can find it difficult to navigate America’s chaotic roads.

Driver anxiety is a special form of anxiety that causes discomfort and stress. Symptoms can vary in severity. You and other drivers could be at risk if you experience extreme panic attacks or driver anxiety. To avoid these feelings and potentially a negative outcome, some people might avoid driving.

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We turn to experts for the best ways to deal with anxiety in teens driving.

Experts’ opinion

Experts believe that anxiety among teens driving is increasing.

I have noticed an increase in anxiety disorders in adolescents and children. This could be due to many factors. Teenagers and millennials are facing increasing stressors, including financial difficulties, school demands, navigating social media and increased exposure to anxiety-provoking images and media.” – Dr. Laura Willing. Psychiatrist at Children’s National Hospital.

While she recognizes that many stressors are also faced by older adults, she reminds us to remember that they have more experience and can develop coping skills to mitigate them.

Parents can’t help you if you don’t know how to recognize signs of anxiety.

Anxiety signs

The sheer number of anxiety disorders available today is one area of confusion.

Dr. Willing explains that there are many types of anxiety disorders. These range from generalized anxiety disorder to obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder. Willing elaborates. “Each disorder presents with a unique set of symptoms.”

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These are signs your teen may be experiencing anxiety about driving.

Erica Curtis is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the award-winning author of The Innovative Parent: Raising Connected, Happy, Successful Kids Through Art.She discusses how anxiety about teens driving can affect the health and development of many teenagers.

Driver anxiety can limit your social and work opportunities. Driver anxiety can lead to increased anxiety about driving and the possibility of anxiety about engaging in social activities. Teens who drive may feel more anxious about driving, or feeling anxious while driving. The driver could feel so overwhelmed that they experience a panic attack on the road. This is dangerous i>

Parents may find that their teenagers make excuses for not driving, or are not excited about getting their license. Some people prefer to learn how to drive with their parents or friends.

Experts assist us in identifying how teenage driver anxiety can impact teens in different ways.


Anxiety is something that Dr. Deirdre Narcisse, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at Montclair State University, says is especially prevalent amongst today’s young adults, with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reporting that about 8% of children and teens experience an anxiety disorder.

Curtis knows from personal experience. Curtis shares that there has been an increase in anxiety among teens over the past 15 years. Today, approximately 1 in 3 teenagers suffer from an anxiety disorder. People who have had an unpleasant experience driving may subconsciously associate driving with those feelings. If there are any vague similarities, even seemingly unrelated traumas, they can manifest as driving anxieties.

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Dr. Narcisse agrees with this sentiment. “Anxiety can worsen if we try to avoid the things that make us anxious,” Dr. Narcisse says. You must deal with anxiety to make it go away.


According to Dr. Steve Seay, a South Florida psychologist, dealing with anxiety is the exact opposite of what teens do.HeThis explainsTeens can sometimes avoid driving because of driver anxiety.

Many young drivers are not aware that their driving fear is caused by anxiety. They choose to skip their driving test because they don’t want to be judged. Their parents don’t often realize that their anxiety plays a role in their driving avoidance i>

Do not assume that your teenager is anxious about driving because they aren’t motivated to. Anxiety avoidance can manifest as a lack of motivation. However, it may also be caused by other beliefs or feelings, such as environmental concerns, the effort required, or feeling overwhelmed by other responsibilities.

Instead, she recommends asking open-ended questions about people’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs about driving.

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Teen driver anxiety can manifest itself in other ways, says Dr. Fredric Neuman, Director of the Anxiety and Phobia Clinic. He calls driver anxiety vehophobia and warns that it could also be called agoraphobia. He says that confronting these fears directly is the best way to address them.

It can still be frustrating for parents who wish their children independence and the convenience of driving.

Seay says, “Never be afraid. There is effective therapy for excessive driving-related anxiety and driving fears.

Helping teens cope

It doesn’t mean that a teenager is anxious about driving right now.

Dr. Willingness.

Teen driver anxiety can be easily and effectively treated using these methods.

Make a routine

Dr. John Duffy is a psychologist and author of the best-selling book Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety.He emphasizes the importance of having a routine and recommends it to his clients.

“Teenagers who are unstructured and anxious are often frustrated and listless.” It’s okay if your teenager doesn’t like a rigid schedule. However, it’s a smart idea to help them establish a routine that works. .”

Find coping strategies

Dr. Willing. She says that there are many wonderful coping strategies that can be used by teens and children with anxiety.

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These are her suggestions:

  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Grounding techniques
  • Mindfulness

Dr. Dr. Willing recommends distraction techniques. She says that distraction techniques include exercise, listening and creating art. Practice and rehearsal before you start an anxiety-provoking task is a great way to reduce anxiety and increase self-efficacy.

Apply practical skills

Dr. Dr. Willing recommends that teens learn practical skills to reduce anxiety about driving. She says, “Practical skills like using a calendar to plan ahead, breaking down large projects into smaller tasks, and taking breaks between activities can reduce anxiety and stress.


Elise Aronov MSW is a clinical social worker with family practices in New York City as well as New Jersey. She advises parents to remind their teens why having a driver’s licence is so important. It can be more than a ride to school or work. It can also serve as an emergency transport for an older relative or friend.

Dr. Aronov warns that pressure should not be applied. “Say, “You don’t need to drive. You don’t have to get your license right away. It’s nice to have choices.

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Get involved

“Parents are their teenagers’ No. 1 driving teacher and coach, but they often don’t recognize this or seek additional support,” explains Pam Shadel Fischer, a teen driving safety expert with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

It is crucial that parents ensure that their teen drivers are safe and competent. This is crucial as technology, licensing, and driving laws continue to evolve i>

Role modeling behavior can be very beneficial for teens. Dr. Narcisse reminds parents that it is important to model behavior which will calm your teen. Demonstrate relaxed and positive behavior whenever possible.

Locate a support group

Dr. Duffy says that teens can greatly benefit from having a support network. Dr. Duffy says that teens who communicate with their friends via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or Skype feel validated and recognized more than those who don’t. It is a way for our children to understand that they are not the only ones going through this.

Exposition therapy is worth considering

Dr. Narcisse recommends teens also consider exposure therapy for driver anxiety.

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She explains that parents can make small changes to help their children get used to driving. “Online tutorials are an easy way to learn about driving without having to go anywhere near the highway.”

She focuses on mini-exposures like sitting in the driver’s chair without turning the car on. Guide them to move the car up and back on the driveway once they feel comfortable.

Dr. Narcisse says that exposure can be used to make them feel comfortable, without forcing them to go on the road. “It lets you know if they are interested in going on the road.”

Get professional assistance

If you don’t know the problem, you can’t help but to fix it.

Dr. Willing. If you’re concerned that your child’s anxiety is causing problems, it might be worth having them evaluated for anxiety. Start by visiting your child psychiatrist, therapist, or pediatrician.

Erica Curtis helped many teenagers with their driver anxiety. She shares that anxiety is often accompanied by negative beliefs about oneself, such as ‘I’m unsafe’ or ‘I don’t have the ability to handle it. A skilled therapist can gently challenge anxious thoughts and primal flight/fight fear impulses and help them replace them with more positive thoughts, feelings and sensations using a variety techniques. These could include relaxation techniques, visualization, trauma-informed practices, or other forms.

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Have patience. Even experienced adults can be nervous about driving. Dr. Narcisse says that just because someone can drive doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right time.