More than a third of motorists feel anxious behind the wheel. What is more, almost half (43%) of this group say nerves affect their ability to drive.

Northern calm

According to a study from Aviva, the south of the country is struggling the most. The density of population and the congested nature of so many of the regions roads is perhaps a key influence here.

People living in London (44%), the east of England (44%) are the mot likely to admit being anxious drivers. They are closely followed byYorkshire and the Humber (38%).

In the North East they are the least likely (23%) to worry behind the wheel.

Geography of fear

Those who do most of their motoring on minor connecting roads (32%) or in urban areas (31%) are particularly prone to driving nerves.

Perhaps surprisingly, just 7% of people who do the majority of their driving on motorways say they feel anxious when driving.

The statistics come from a new study of 1,441 UK motorists, commissioned by Aviva.

Highlighting issues

Among those who feel uneasy about driving, more than three quarters report they experience physical symptoms. These include a rapid heartbeat (23%), sweating (22%) and feeling nauseous (15%).

Nine per cent of people in this group actually report having chest pains and difficulty breathing as a result of driving-related anxiety.

Two fifths (39%) of people who say anxiety affects their driving have reported this to the DVLA. However,  16% of the people in this position say they didn’t know that they needed to report it.

A freedom of information (FOI) request submitted to the DVLA by Aviva also discovered a total of 534,692 individuals reported a medical condition between 1 January and 31 December 2022. Of those reports, 5,614 were for anxiety.*

More information about managing driving anxiety can be found on Aviva’s website here.

Age matters

Digging into the research finds that driving anxiety is much more common among younger drivers.  Top of the pile is the fact that 62% of those aged under 25 feel worried behind the wheel.

Feelings of driving-related anxiety largely fall over time. It seems that just 22% of drivers aged 65-plus say they suffer from such nerves.

However, in spite of this, three quarters of drivers questioned also admitted to occasional bad behaviour behind the wheel.

People were most likely to confess to speeding (34%). Swearing at other motorists (31%), making rude gestures (21%) and fiddling with in-car tech (18%) also feature on the list.

Learning lessons

Lorna Whalley, Head of Propositions, Aviva says: “Feeling anxious when driving can be very distressing for motorists and can even prevent them getting behind the wheel. However, there are ways that people can aim to get on top of their nerves, from learning calming techniques, to using technology to identify areas for improvement. This can help people to become more confident drivers, which can mean safer roads for both motorists and pedestrians.”

You can read the report here.