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When Are You Most Likely to Have a Panic Attack While Driving?

Updated on September 19, 2012

In Feb. 2012, I published a Hub about stopping panic attacks while driving. Panicking in the middle of your morning commute is an extremely unpleasant experience. I know, because it's happened to me - with two kids in the car no less!

I conducted a poll where I asked, "How Often Do You Have Panic Attacks While Driving?" The results (as of Sept. 12, 2012) are below:

I bet a lot of the people who chose "Often" or "Every Single Time I Drive" over "Only in Specific Situations" actually only experience a full blow panic attack in one or two particular settings.

A panic attack while driving is usually specific to a particular set of circumstances that the panic sufferer then goes to great lengths avoiding. I'd like to break this data down further with another poll that asks more specific questions about the conditions under which panic attacks are most likely to occur.

I am most likely to have a panic attack while driving:

See results

7 common triggers for a panic attack while driving

Based on my own experience and the research I've conducted for the Driving Peace program, the most common triggers for driving-related panic attacks are:

  1. Driving on freeways. High speed and large vehicles are among the top contributors here.
  2. Driving in heavy traffic. Congested traffic conditions make lane changes, on-ramps and freeway exits very stressful.
  3. Driving over bridges. Like traffic, bridges can cause feelings of being trapped with no way out, a common trigger for panic attacks.
  4. Driving through tunnels. Though not as common as bridges, driving through tunnels can bring on similar feelings of claustrophobia.
  5. Driving at night. The reduced visibility and lack of familiar landmarks at night are scary for some drivers. Driving at night is more difficult than driving during daylight hours, plus nyctophobia (fear of the dark) can also play a role.
  6. Driving in bad weather. Inclement weather makes driving harder, and in some cases, more dangerous.
  7. Driving in unfamiliar surroundings. This often has more to do with the fear of getting lost than anything else.

I look forward to seeing how this data breaks out. I'm constantly searching for new and better resources to help people who suffer from driving panic attacks because I used to be one of them. Thank goodness I'm not anymore!

PS - If there are other things that trigger a panic attack while driving for you, please tell us about them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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