Managing Driving Anxiety after an Accident
Traffic accidents change lives. One moment you’re thinking about running errands, visiting friends, or traveling for work or pleasure. The next moment, a speeding driver or a distracted driver strikes your car causing you months or years of physical pain. While it’s critical that the ER doctors and your medical providers focus on your physical injures, psychological injuries need to be addressed too.
It’s natural after a car crash, even a minor one, to have nightmares and suffer depression from the accident. The fears and anxiety that a car crash causes may make you afraid to drive your car again. It’s natural to worry about whether the car repairs really fix the damage. It’s natural to wonder if a car struck me once, will another car strike me again.
Most people feel anger and shock after being struck by a car. Many accident victims feel nervous about driving again. In severe cases, a driver or passenger may suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
Many people improve with time, counseling, and self-care. Some car, truck, and motorcycle accident victims may suffer long-term symptoms which indicate they have PTSD. Many victims don’t even begin to experience PTSD symptoms until a month or even a year after the car accident. PTSD symptoms include
- Intrusive memories. Examples include distressing memories of the car accident, reliving the event (flashbacks), difficulty sleeping, and negative emotional reactions to anything that reminds you of the car accident.
- Avoidance. These symptoms include being unable to or not wanting to talk about the car accident. “Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event.”
- Negative mood changes. Symptoms include feeling hopeless, difficulty remembering the car accident, not being able to keep close relationships, and feeling negative about yourself. You may feel emotionally numb. You may not have the same interest in activities as you did before the car crash.
- Changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms include becoming frightened easily, self-destructive behavior, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.
Younger car accident victims may have more intense symptoms.
If you have PTSD or any fears of anxiety due to the car accident, you have the right to seek medical help with a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Therapies and treatments usually include talking about your fears and worries over extended sessions. A psychiatrist may prescribe medications to help you cope. Support groups (people who have been in car accidents or experienced traumatic events) may be an option too.
Help overcome your fear after a car accident
Driver’s Alert has a number of practical suggestions including the following:
- Seek medical help – as described earlier in this article
- Get into a car as a passenger first. Part of the fear most car accident victims experience is due to the lack of control they have as a driver. If you drive a car, truck, or another vehicle; you’re responsible for yourself, for family and friends in the car, and for other drivers on the highway. You may worry that your reaction times aren’t what they should be or that you aren’t mentally prepared to respond if someone passes you or drivers too closely. It may help to be a passenger in a car with someone you trust first – to get the feel of being in a car again. Being a passenger can help you acclimate yourself to all the traffic conditions you’ll experience when you drive again – without being responsible for those conditions.
- Drive as soon as you can. Another theory is that just like the old saying that if you fall off a horse, you need to get back on the horse again – if you have an accident, it may help to get behind the wheel as soon as possible. The more you delay driving again, the harder it may be to get behind the steering wheel again. Your mental health doctor can guide you so you feel confident about this remedy.
- Buy a safer car. These days, newer cars are equipped with all sorts of technology that helps to avoid crashes and helps protect car occupants if there is a car accident. Newer cars are equipped with cameras and sensors that help protect you if you’re too near another vehicle or if another vehicle is approaching you in a dangerous way. The car may signal you through noises, graphics, or other ways. Many cars now take control of your car if traffic conditions are too dangerous. Bigger cars are generally safer. Cars should have working airbags and other safety features.
Trucks and motorcycles may have some of these newer crash-avoidance technologies too – though much of the current research focuses on safer passenger cars.
- Drive in an uncongested area. Start slowly by driving where there isn’t much traffic. Try driving in a parking lot off the main road. Drive in your neighborhood while the kids are in school. Have an adult with you while you drive to discuss the traffic around you and alert you to any dangers. When you’re comfortable driving where there isn’t much traffic, try less-traveled roads before you get back on the main highways.
- Don’t drive while distracted. Don’t ever text while driving. Don’t talk on your cellphone, eat, or drink while driving. Make sure you’re rested, sober, and ready to respond quickly to any traffic emergencies.
Another way to address anxiety is to work with a driving instructor. Instructors work with adults in addition to working with teenage drivers. Give yourself permission to adjust to driving again slowly and one step at a time.
Speak with a skilled Colorado personal lawyer today
At the Law Office of Anna L. Burr, LLC, we demand compensation for all your injuries including physical pain and emotional suffering. Accidents are traumatic events. There’s are a lot of stress and anxiety involved with your recovery process. You have the right to seek professional health with mental healthcare providers. You have the right to compensation for you all fears. To speak with a seasoned car accident lawyer, call us today. You can contact me online or call 720-500-2076 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We represent personal injury clients on a contingency fee basis.