‘Tis the season to hit the road, Jack. So why aren’t you packing up already? Don’t miss out on on your next vacay: if you experience driving anxiety, read on for techniques that can help you feel more comfortable behind the wheel. These techniques include:
1. Don’t forget the music
You may not always have great radio reception, so pack lots of CD’s and load up your iPod or iPhone with the tunes you love.
It turns out that music, especially singing, has a relaxing effect on the body by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to the American Psychological Association. Plus, having fun on the road will give your car a new, positive association. Welcome to your very own karaoke club on wheels!
Can’t find music to agree on? Try out a podcast or audiobook to keep the whole car entertained.
2. Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate
The best way to reduce anxiety on the road is (predictably) to reduce dangerous distractions while driving. ConsumerReports.org lists five ways to limit distractions, including resisting your phone’s screen, mapping out your route ahead of time, grooming at home (rather than in your rearview mirror), becoming familiar with your car’s controls and avoiding the drive-through.
Without the stress of relentless texting and spilled coffee, you may actually reach the zen state of mind you always wanted. If not, at least get bluetooth and drive safely.
3. Choose a vehicle wisely
Nervous drivers should follow the same principles recommended for teens by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Avoid high horsepower and opt for a heavier vehicle, such as a Subaru Forester, which offers better protection in a crash.
Also, ensure that your vehicle has an electronic stability control (ESC) feature. This will help you maintain control while driving around curves or on slick roads. Consider a midsize sedan like the 2010 Chevy Malibu, which won the top safety rating that year, according to IIHS.
4. Practice makes perfect
Get back on that horse by taking a defensive driving course. The extended practice and training in safe driving techniques will build your confidence in driving. You will feel better, drive safer and may even save money on your car insurance premium.
5. Wear sunglasses
Sunlight on the road in front of you can cause glare that makes it much harder to see. As a result, already anxious drivers experience added stress.
To avoid this, make sure that you wear quality sunglasses while you drive, especially polarized lenses, to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays, and drive on with calm.
6. Plan ahead
Reduce your stress about getting lost with pre-trip planning. Map out your route on your atlas or GPS before leaving home. Memorize interstate exits and major landmarks ahead of time to help you quickly assimilate to your surroundings once you’re on the road.
This planning will also help you know when to stop for gas or food, which will decrease the chances of getting hangry — or stuck on the side of the road with an empty gas tank.
7. Improve safety
Nothing lends peace of mind quite like completing a paranoid safety checklist. Prepare your car for lava-hot asphalt, unexpected rain and the many miles between Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon.
Check your cooling system, tire pressure and tread, steering and suspension, air conditioning system and tranny using Cartalk’s Summer Driving Tips.
Also, change your oil before (and possibly after) your trip for optimum safety preparation.