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Reverb11: My Fear of Driving

Taking photos at stoplights helped with my driving phobia. (photo by Tui Snider)
Taking photos at stoplights helped with my driving phobia. (photo by Tui Snider)

Reverb11 prompt: Fear

The Reverb11 prompt I’ve chosen for today’s post comes from Coach Jennie a.k.a. @CoachJennie, on Twitter, in case you’d like to follow her there.

Fear: If you could take a pill to *cure* just one of your fears from 2011, which one would you choose + why?

If I could cure one of my fears by taking a pill, I would cure my fear of driving. This is something I’ve struggled with for years, and while I’ve made progress, I’ve still got a long way to go.

For years, I was afraid to drive a car, but in 2005, I got my driver’s license. It wasn’t easy, but thanks to an extremely patient friend, I finally confronted this phobia.

With Alix as my teacher, learning to drive was exhilarating and fun. We laughed constantly, which was a helpful distraction. During one of our first lessons, a cop pulled me over – for driving too slowly! Even then, Alix and I could not keep a straight face. We were deep in the “giggle zone” and found it hysterical when the police officer explained that he had expected to find an intoxicated driver at the wheel, not a couple of laughing ladies.

Luckily, I didn’t get a ticket. This was a small town, and the cop was a regular at the coffeehouse where I worked. After that, when he’d come in for his daily jolt of caffeine, he’d often tease that, “The next time I pull you over it will be for a speeding ticket,” implying, of course, that I would soon be quite comfortable behind the wheel.

That’s exactly what I expected, too. Even though I’ve seen the “Wizard of Oz” enough times to know that a piece of paper does not impart a specific quality to its bearer, I stupidly assumed that merely having my driver’s license would banish my fear of driving once and for all. I didn’t expect to turn into Mario Andretti, but I figured that driving would become routine.

The more I drove around my little town, the more I got used to it – but only up to a point. I am still very nervous with highway driving.  Moving to big city threw me out of balance, too.  I felt like I was playing a video game at too difficult of a level. I wanted to bump it down a notch, but that was impossible.

Creative Distraction

Without Alix around to keep me laughing, I had to find a new distraction from my fear. Wearing a digital camera around my neck while I drove helped a lot. This kicked my creative side into gear, so that – instead of overthinking every move I made while driving – my mind was busy seeking interesting compositions. (Somewhere I have a bunch of photographs of bumpers, red lights and stop signs from this time period.)

Falling out of practice

My next move, however, took me to Naples, Italy. In a country of wild drivers, Naples is known for being especially insane. Just walking across the street in that city is a death-defying feat. Driving there was out of the question, especially for me.

Unlike America, where getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage for teenagers, I met plenty of Italians who don’t drive. I found it amusing that after years of shocking Americans by not having a driver’s license, I was suddenly impressing Italians by having one.

But don’t you want your freedom?

Back in the United States, when people found out I didn’t have a driver’s license they were often appalled, even confused. “You’re kidding!” they’d exclaim, before adding, “But don’t you want your freedom?”

I find it strange how, in America at least, the concepts of driving and freedom go hand in hand. I even remember a car jingle that went, “It’s not just your car, it’s your freedom.” I don’t want to get too off-topic here, so I’ll save my definition of freedom for another day, but, frankly, I think my passport has given me much more freedom than my driver’s license ever has.

Years of shame & embarrassment

I’d also like to mention that my fear of driving is not something I like to admit. People rarely understand, and it’s just embarrassing. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s good to keep things that trigger shame hidden away, either. It just adds power to that shame. So, for the sake of Reverb11, I’m going public with it.

I still don’t know why I’ve got this phobia

One thing I haven’t completely nailed down is why I have this driving phobia. What’s at the root of this fear, I often wonder, and does it even matter at this point?

As I admitted when I blogged about test driving an electric car, I am not a car person in much the same way that other folks might claim not to be a “cat person,” or to dislike sports. As Austin Powers might say, “Cars just aren’t my bag, baby.”

Nor do I get the concept of, “judging a man by his car,” although it’s a recurring theme in American movies and TV shows. A guy once picked me up for a date then became extremely insulted because I didn’t compliment him on the fancy-schmancy sports car he was driving. To me, it was just a car.

In fact, the only time I’ve been impressed by a man’s vehicle was when my now-husband picked me up in his Honda Insight. I found it so cool that he chose a hybrid, one that averages 72 miles per gallon. Smart, responsible, better for the environment, to me, at least = sexy!

And then came Texas

So here’s the state of my driving phobia in 2011. I haven’t driven since moving to Texas in the fall of 2009. Why? For starters, the only car we have is a stick-shift. This wouldn’t be so bad if we lived in a small town, but the way our area is set out, you have to hop onto the highway to get anywhere. Even with a camera around my neck the combination of highway driving and a manual transmission bumps me up too many levels in this particular video game.

That said, I would like to whittle away at my driving phobia in 2012. I don’t have a strategy yet. At this point, I am merely putting the thought out there. I’ll keep you posted!

What are your fears?

What about you? Do you have any fears that you plan to conquer, or at least tame, in the coming year? What are your strategies for dismantling them? Does any fear or shame surround your fear? If so, how do you deal with this?

What is #Reverb11?

#Reverb11, #Resound11 and #Relish11 are just a few names for a fun end of the year project that mindful bloggers all over the world are participating in. Each day in December, folks choose a prompt from one of several lists, then use that as a launchpad to express themselves on their blog. The prompts are especially geared towards reflecting back on 2011 and paving the way towards a better 2012.

Everyone is welcome to join in. If you don’t have a blog, respond to the prompts offline through journaling, painting or whatever direction your inspiration takes you!

Tui Snider
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Published inTravel Photo Essays


  1. nondriver nondriver

    I hate driving, too! And I know what you mean about how people don’t’ get it. I have my freedom and travel a lot, like you. I just prefer airplanes and boats. Haha! You were brave to write this an d I appreciate it.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi nondriver,

      Thanks for your comment. I was kinda chicken to write about my phobia, but I am glad I did so, since I’m not the only one out there, and like you say, it is often misunderstood.

      Hope to see you here again sometime!

  2. Yeah I know all too well about the driving ‘impairment.’ Since I can’t see too well, it’s a good thing that I’m not behind the wheel. However more than once in a public place – like when I had to take the unemployment benefits class and they’re giving ideas and things you should do in order to get a job – driving came up. “For those of you who say you can’t drive – get your tickets settled and pay your fines.” Why wouldn’t someone drive – it’s American as racism and clustering. That day I felt really outside of the norm. Anyone who doesn’t drive must be in that predicament due to a crime- how rude.

    Anyways, I ride the bus to and from work and I don’t kill anyone due to my legal blindness. But if the driver did run over that unemployment class teacher, I don’t think I would shed a tear.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Hans,

      Next time someone harasses you for not having a license, remember me! I always enjoyed walking home with you, anyway. We would never have met Timmy the Tree if we were both drivers back then, now would we?

      Thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. I read this last night and had to come by and say something. I have had the same problem.
    I quit driving in SF and then didn’t need to for 12 years. I got a job outside of the city and had to get used to the 101 –it was like nearly committing suicide every day. I didn’t drive unless I had to. I hated it.
    We moved to Chicago and I didn’t drive there either–I couldn’t understand how to get around, everything looked the same. I was able to drive when we moved to the burbs and I can drive in Fayetteville. But I was terrified for many years. I’ve had to regain two driver’s licenses–one in San Francisco (yikes) and one in Chicago. It was rough–but it did feel good even if I never got all that good at it.
    I drive all over the place now and I’m 80% comfortable, but I still turn the keys over to J when we are out together.

    I want to say Brava for addressing this and I know that when you are ready you will be tooling around all over the place again.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Jyllian,

      Thank you SO much for commenting. I’d always felt we had a lot in common, but didn’t figure it included this!

      You sound much braver than me. For years I was able to structure my life so that I lived within a 20 – 45 minute walk from where I worked. Now, of course, I work mainly from home, which is the easiest commute of all!

      Thanks again for your kind words and support! :)

  4. And here I thought my daughter was an anomaly. She is 27 years old and finally received her license in 2009 (and only then because she had a baby and I was having to drive her to all of her appts.). She says she is still afraid when she drives and doesn’t like to do anything (like eat) while she drives because it is too distracting. She once told me that cars scared her so much that, when she was a child, she would mentally trace the route I had to take to go to the store and back and if I wasn’t back in the amount of time that she felt it would take she would begin to worry.

    There isn’t any great accident in her life to explain her great fear of driving. We believe in past lives and believe that she possibly had a horrible car accident in a past life. We have done some clearings on it but reading your story reminds me to ask her if she would like to do more clearings.

    Thank you for sharing your fear of driving. I will show her your posting so that maybe she won’t feel so alone in her fear.


    P.S. I didn’t realize the expanded version you were talking about was your Virtues posting. I had read and posted a comment on that post. Your Virtues post is very mind opening for me. Thank you.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Morgan,

      I can relate to not wanting to do anything else while driving. Plus, I used to drive my nephews around and the thought of getting into an accident with them along is too distressing to contemplate!

      I have wondered about the past life thing, too. Although, in this life, my sister was in a scary car crash when I was 4-years-old and it really freaked me out. I also had a bike wreck when I was 6 that really shook me up…

      I dunno, though!

      What’s involved in the clearings that you do for your daughter? Does she feel a difference? I hope she reads my post. It’s nice to know that others struggle with this, too.

      Thank you! :)

      p.s. Oh, all righty! Glad it’s all cleared up. :)

  5. Bravo to you for facing your fear! I need to take some of this advice and work on mine. I have an intense case of claustrophobia, which is unfortunate since I ride the packed el too and from work every day! I’m working on it bit by bit, but some days if the trains are super crowded, I’ll bail and drive to work.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Noel,

      True, I’ve faced my fear… but what I didn’t expect was that my fear continues to face me. At this point, we’re stuck in some sort of stare down.

      Best wishes for dealing with your claustrophobia. Mine, I have found, subsides when my Vitamin B levels are up. I started taking sublingual Vitamin B to deal with some deficiencies which showed up in my blood work. Much to my surprise, my claustrophobia improved, too.

      Take care and thanks for sharing!


  6. Now I know what #reverb11 is I’ll have to check it out. Good for you in conquerng your fear. I do understand it though. My mom is afraid to drive. My dad tried to teach her but she could just never relax. I was nervous too. But for me like others you mentioned drivng was freedom. Before I had a car I would have to plan where I lived and where I socialized aroud public transportation. If I wanted to stay out after the buses stopped running I had to depend on friends. Now I can come go and live where ever I want.

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