Many people think being extra careful on the road makes them better drivers. However, what if you have crossed that fine line from driving safely to being too timid, nervous or overly cautious behind the wheel?
At Schmidt Kramer, we understand there are valid reasons people may feel nervous or anxious when driving. Today, we talk about some of these reasons and why being an overly cautious driver is so dangerous. If you are too timid behind the wheel, you could even be breaking the law.
Injured in a crash with a timid or overly cautious driver? You can contact our experienced car accident lawyers in Harrisburg 24/7 to discuss your situation and learn if you have legal options.
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What Are Some Examples of Nervous or Overly Cautious Driving Behavior?
Drivers are supposed to follow traffic laws and take reasonable steps to prevent harm to others when behind the wheel. However, some people take this too far, and in doing so, they may actually increase the risk of a crash. Here are just a few of the most common examples of people who may be nervous or overly cautious when driving:
- Driving too slowly: There are times when bad weather, road construction in progress or other factors make it necessary to slow down and be more cautious. However, people who regularly drive below the posted speed limit increase the risk of a crash.
- Indecision at intersections: Drivers who are being overcautious at an intersection may start to pull out and then back up again because they think it is not safe. Some drivers may do this multiple times. These are the drivers who look left, right and left again, which is good initially, but then continue to do so, despite the next approaching car being far enough away to make it safe to go. This type of start-stop behavior is dangerous, and it can be confusing for other drivers. Those waiting to go may become angry enough to lay on the horn or shout out the window. Although aggressive behavior is illegal, many drivers have a short fuse and may become angry. This type of situation can make timid drivers even more nervous, causing them to go even when it is truly not safe.
- Excessive braking: We have all been behind some driver who slams on his brakes repeatedly and for no apparent reason.
- Waiting too long to merge into traffic: Similar to pulling out in an intersection, many drivers get extremely anxious when they have to merge onto the highway. This could again lead to the stop-start behavior we already talked about. Those tailing behind this driver may get mad enough to rear-end a timid driver or try to drive around them.
- Not overtaking cyclists or leaving enough space when passing: Overly cautious drivers may be afraid to try to pass a cyclist. If they do decide to overtake someone riding a bicycle, they may not leave enough space. In Pennsylvania, drivers are required to leave four feet of space between their vehicle and the cyclist when passing.
- Hesitating when driving through a roundabout: Many drivers get confused by roundabouts, especially when it comes to understanding who has the right of way and when. Nervous drivers could be so hesitant that they may cause a crash simply by not being able to decide what to do.
Which Drivers Are More Likely to Be Overly Cautious or Nervous Behind the Wheel?
Drivers may feel anxious behind the wheel for a reason. There is no invalid reason for feeling nervous or being overly cautious. However, it is important to recognize it and take steps to deal with the reason. Continuing to be a timid or anxious driver could lead to a serious crash and severe injuries.
Those most likely to be overly cautious or nervous while driving include:
- Inexperienced drivers, such as teens, with too few hours behind the wheel
- Drivers who have vision problems
- Aging parents behind the wheel or any senior citizen dealing with physical, medical or mental issues that impact their confidence in their driving abilities
- Someone who has recently or previously been involved in a car crash
- Drivers impaired by alcohol and other substances may be overly careful when trying not to risk getting caught by police
- Those who are visiting or who recently moved to the U.S. may find the traffic overwhelming or be confused by road signs. Some people may end up driving on the other side of the road.
What Can You Do to Deal With Anxiety While You Are Driving?
Depending on how nervous or anxious you are feeling, it may be a good idea not to drive at all until you seek some therapy to help you understand and manage your fear.
Long-term, there are different types of therapy that can help you overcome your driving anxiety. This is important because if you know that you are struggling with anxiety as a driver, you could be held liable if a crash occurs.
If you experience an unexpected and sudden panic attack on the road, there are some things you can do right away, including:
- Controlling your breathing: People often hyperventilate when they panic. You can focus on your breathing, deliberately slowing down your intake and outtake breaths.
- Play music that calms you: Just be sure to put this on before you set off down the road. Make sure it is not so loud that it drowns out the sound of traffic around you. Hearing approaching motorcycles, for instance, may help you be aware of other traffic, even if they are in your blind spot.
- Use mental focus to push through your anxiety and drive anyway: That said, it is also important that understand what you can and cannot do. If you are really struggling, it may be better to find a safe place to pull over. If you are having frequent panic attacks, it may be helpful to get some therapy to help you gain back your confidence. Sometimes anxiety is bad enough that it may be better not to drive at all while dealing with it.
- Have another driver in the car: If you are trying to work through your fear of driving, stick to less busy roads and bring someone with you who can take over if need be.
How Should You Deal With a Nervous Driver on the Road?
If you see another driver slamming on brakes or going too slow with no reasonable explanation, such as heavy rains or fog, keep your distance from their car. Overly cautious drivers can be unpredictable, which can make it harder to avoid a crash.
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