A fear of the driving test is pretty normal. The driving test itself is generally perceived as being one of the most important milestones in one’s life. It represents freedom from reliance on others and public transport. It opens up new horizons far and wide across the local area, the country and the world as a whole. So, there’s no wonder that the fear of driving tests is so common.
There’s a big difference between feeling a little nervous and anxious (that’s completely normal), and fear or phobia. To be honest, whilst we’ve included it within our list of specific phobias, it’s not really a phobia in its own right – it’s more of cause of anxiety or an acute fear. It can however be closely related to both Vehophobia, also known as the fear of driving and Testophobia which is the fear of tests and exams.
If the thought of the impending driving test is causing you stress and worry. Maybe the fear is keeping you awake at night? If you think you’re going to fail because your nerves will get the better of you on the day. Or if you fear the driving test so much you’re thinking of cancelling it or not turning up then you need to take action
You’ve taken all the lessons and you’ve done all the practice. You know what to do, you know you can drive and your instructor thinks you’re ready to be let loose on the open road. Before this can happen there’s just one small thing that stands in your way … the driving test.
All the experience, all the learning and all the practice counts for nothing – it’s what happens during the test that makes the difference between pass and fail. So, despite the fact that you know you can drive, it’s impossible to feel totally confident about taking the actual driving test. This makes you feel nervous and of course, the more nervous you are, the more likely you are to actually make mistakes – so it’s a Catch-22 situation.
The driving test is both a theoretical and practical examination to test your ability to drive. So, all the attention is focused on you – it’s a test of aptitude where every little detail is scrutinised.
It’s almost impossible to fully prepare as unexpected and unpredictable things will happen because of other drivers, road users or pedestrians. This means you have to remember everything that you’ve learnt, put it all into practice and also concentrate on the environment and be ready for anything! No wonder it’s a scary experience.
Everyone is going to be a little nervous but for some the fear of driving tests becomes pretty intense, irrational, and persistent to the point where it consumes their thoughts on the run-up and affects their ability on the day – it’s this that needs addressing or you’re never going to pass!
The driving test is one of life’s major steps. Gaining that licence is life changing and open up so many new doors. This is why the pressure to pass is so great and why we are all going to feel at least a little anxious about it. This fear can be intensified due to one or more of the following reasons:
A new driver can learn a lot of theory about driving a car and can excel at the theory test. However, theoretical knowledge is not enough to become a good driver. It’s all about practice, concentration and be readiness for anything that the road and its other users can throw at you. You need to feel that confidence in your ability to drive and in managing the environment.
People prone to anxiety and stress in general are going to fear the driving test more. For many the stress levels start to rise weeks before the test itself to the point that they’re visibly and excessively anxious at the actual driving test. You may want to read our feature on generalized anxiety to understand more.
What’s the point, I’m going to fail anyway? Think like that and you will! This is usually down to a lack of self-confidence which you can read about here.
Insecure people are often over-sensitive to criticism which will often make them think they are worse drivers in comparison to others. The insecurity can then translate into fear of performing well on the day of their driving test. Again, it’s important to handle a feeling of low self esteem as it can affect so much more than just the driving test.
Vehophobia is far deeper than a fear of the driving test. It’s an intense and irrational fear of driving. It affects people in different ways but for some, the mere thought of having to sit behind the wheel fills them with extreme anxiety and panic. This is a very different phobia to the mere fear of the driving test but if you suffer from it it’s going to make it extremely difficult to pass that test. Read more about Vehophobia.
Another specific phobia is Testophobia which is an irrational, all-consuming fear of tests and exams in general. Again, this is different to a general fear specifically of the driving test but it can cause extreme anxiety or panic at the thought of any test and so , if you suffer from Testophobia, it’s going to cause you a problem. We have a feature on Testophobia – find out more.
We all associate the driving test with nervousness. But there are good nerves and bad!
Liken it to a sports star going out to play the big game or a pop star about to go on stage in front of thousands of fans. Do you think that these people don’t get nervous? We all get nervous when facing major events in our lives. It’s the body’s natural way of giving us an extra shot of adrenaline and it’s this that gives us the extra focus and determination which will help us through.
The nerves that aren’t going to help us here are the ones that cause the “fight or flight” or acute response. These can increase heart rate, cause sweating, an increase in blood pressure, shallow breathing, panic attacks and a loss of concentration.
When it comes to the symptoms of driving test phobia we can differentiate three specific categories: cognitive, observable, and physiological.
Cognitive symptoms include worry, fear, insecurity, negative thoughts, apprehension, danger anticipation, and difficulty to focus and take decisions.
Among these are found nervousness, erratic and unorganized movements, and avoiding the driving test completely.
The most important symptoms featuring in this category are accelerated pulse, choking feeling, muscular tension, shaking, sweating and dizziness, suffocation, stomach discomfort, fatigue, and chest tightness.
Overall, the symptoms will often be similar to those of a fear of failure. Physical symptoms will include such things as; rapid heart rate, difficulties breathing, chest pain, dizziness, digestive problems, sweating and difficulty relaxing or sleeping. Emotional symptoms can include; anxiety or panic, the need to escape the fear by avoiding the test, feeling powerless over fear, low self-esteem and feeling that you have lost the control.
It’s vital that you address any fear of driving tests to help you prepare and to maximise your chances of passing.
According to unofficial statistics issued by the DVSA and published on the Government website UK driving test pass rates run at just under 56% for the theory and slightly over 51% for the practical. Younger people are more likely to pass and test centres in quieter or rural areas also give a better pass rate as you’d probably expect. There’s arounf 1.8 million taken each year.
In the USA the Department of Motor Vehicles for each state operates the testing required to obtain a driving licence. You can read more about this on the DMV website. Pass rates for the road test vary from state to state but in total around 230 million people hold a driving licence in the USA (2019 figures from Statista) and everyone of those had to pass a test!
Because it’s seen as such a milestone almost everyone who takes a driving test reported at least some degree of anxiety and fear.
To be honest, because it’s not a specific phobia in its own right and because it’s more of a one off but major event in anyones life there’s nothing wrong with taking a little support to help you control the anxiety on the build up and control the nerves on the day. That’s of course assuming you’re not suffering from a more widespread fear of driving itself or a specific fear of tests and exams in general.
Quite simply if you can control the nerves you’re going to give yourself a better chance of passing.
In most cases “treatment” is perhaps the wrong word and therapy (as we know it) is probably not going to be needed. We’re talking more about help to control the natural anxiety and nerves we all associate with teh driving test. They affect everyone in different ways and to different extremes but there are plenty of options:
Hypnotherapy should always be considered as it can really help to control and settle the mind to leave you feeling calmer and ready to face the drivingtest in a more confident manner. There are many sel-hypnosis options which can prove very effective and needn’t cost much either. Find Out More >
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is the most recognised therapy for anxiety or indeed any phobia. So if you feel your fear of the driving test is really getting the better of you then this is one form of support which shouldn’t be overlooked. Find Out More >
In the majority of cases a self-help anxiety control program is what’s going to be required. And there’s plenty of options out there with companies looking to cash in on what they see as a big potential market.