Treating Post-Accident Vehophobia

February 21, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Treating Post-Accident Vehophobia

Vehophobia, or the fear of driving, is quite common, both in people who have been involved in serious accidents and sometimes even in those who have not. Many people suffering from vehophobia choose not to drive altogether because the anxiety and fear are overwhelming. This can be extremely disruptive to one's life, which is why treating post-accident vehophobia is important.

If you or a loved one is dealing with vehophobia after a traumatic car accident caused by someone else's negligence, you may be able to seek damages for the cost of treatment and detrimental effects on your life. Involving an experienced personal injury attorney can significantly benefit the quality of your case. Dolman Law Group has handled many car accident claims for clients suffering from vehophobia with great success. Take advantage of a free consultation with our award-winning car accident injury team to learn more about your legal options.

Understanding Vehophobia After a Serious Florida Car Accident

The word “vehophobia” comes from the Latin word veho, meaning "drive," and the Greek word phóbos, meaning "fear." There are other similar forms of phobias that may relate to or be in addition to vehophobia, such as amaxophobia (the fear of riding in a vehicle) or hodophobia (the fear of traveling). Vehophobia is a very specific phobia as well as a serious condition that can develop regardless of whether the person sustained injuries with vehophobia or their loved one.

Vehophobia Is a Form of PTSD

The fear of driving after a car accident is technically a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a complex and challenging mental health issue that affects many. It can be set off by the trauma of almost dying (or thinking you might die), the trauma of injuring your children, or just the violence of the event in general. 

This condition may be caused—and triggered—by a multitude of things. However, one common reason occurs when a car crash survivor is scared to drive after an accident. 

The fear of driving persists for many reasons, each one often as unique as the driver. There are some general ideas that prevent people from driving or create massive anxiety while driving.

  • The fear that they will get into another motor vehicle accident, even if they have driven for years without getting into an accident before the recent incident
  • The thought of driving causes them to suffer extreme and crippling anxiety, which prevents them from even attempting to get behind the wheel
  • The fear that they will suffer a panic attack while operating a vehicle, which they think will harm them or cause another accident
  • The fear that they may harm or kill another person, family, their own children, or their entire family

Luckily, the healthcare, safety, and injury attorney community take this disorder very seriously. For this reason, much research has been done into effective ways to help people overcome their fear of driving. Today, there are a variety of treatments available.

Symptoms of Vehophobia

Some common symptoms of vehophobia may include:

  • Panic attacks or extreme anxiety when faced with the idea of driving or being in a car.
  • Avoidance of driving or traveling by car, even in situations where it is necessary. These individuals may turn to public transportation to avoid getting behind the wheel. 
  • Physical symptoms include sweating, trembling, increased heart rate, and difficulty breathing.
  • Excessive worry about driving or potential accidents, even when there is no actual danger.
  • Difficulty concentrating while driving, feeling tense and jumpy, or experiencing muscle tension.

The severity of vehophobia can vary from person to person, and some individuals may only experience mild symptoms, while others may experience more intense and debilitating symptoms. If you or a family member is experiencing symptoms of vehophobia, it's important to seek professional help from a mental health provider who can provide treatment options.

Psychotherapy Aids Car Accident Victims With Vehophobia

Apart from medication, psychotherapy is the most commonly used technique for treating anxiety disorders. Two common forms of psychotherapy are behavioral and cognitive therapy. Behavioral therapy focuses on reducing harmful or problematic behaviors by dealing with how actions are impacted by feelings. Cognitive therapy helps patients adapt their anxiety-inducing thought patterns into something more manageable.

For example, a therapist might help someone with driving anxiety to prevent panic attacks by teaching them how to mentally re-approach the anxiety-inducing experience of operating a motor vehicle. In behavioral therapy, the therapist will help the patient contest undesirable behaviors related to the fear, and the patient will learn to change their behaviors that are contributing to their anxiety. This may come in the form of controlling their breathing, not avoiding certain roads, or limiting obsessive behaviors.

Hypnotherapy is Used to Treat Vehophobia

Hypnotherapy—more commonly referred to as hypnosis—uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focused attention to help a person process specific thoughts or tasks. This technique is specifically helpful as an aid to psychotherapy because hypnosis can allow those suffering from anxiety to explore the painful thoughts, feelings, and memories that they associate with driving in a more relaxed state. Hypnotherapy can also help some to be more open to discussion and suggestions, which can help a person to confront the deeper issues involved in their vehophobia.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) Can Help Patients With Driving Anxiety

Prolonged exposure (PE) therapy is a form of behavior and cognitive therapy designed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This therapy consists of a patient re-experiencing the traumatic event through visiting the painful memory through real exposure to the fear. In PE, the process of confronting the painful memory is called “imaginal” exposure.

For example, a patient may remember their car accident, the aftermath, and so on to relive the experience. This is often the build-up to something called “in vivo,” where the patient will confront the fear in real life. The process of in vivo exposure allows the patient to experience the thing that is causing them anxiety or stress in a safe and controlled way.

For those who experience vehophobia, this may start with riding in a car with the therapist driving. They may begin driving in an empty parking lot, then on a back road, then on the highway, and so on. As the patient moves through each step, they learn to confront their feelings and to understand that their anxiety level will decrease over time. Mental healthcare professionals consider this treatment to be highly effective.

Defensive Driving Courses Can Lessen Fears Surrounding Driving

Some people overcome driving-related PTSD by taking defensive driving classes to learn new skills to help them combat their fears of the road. This approach can give those suffering from vehophobia a greater sense of control. Defensive driving ideally restores their faith in their own driving abilities. It also gives them comfort in the idea that if some unwanted situation were to occur on the road, they would have the skills to avoid it.

Medication is a Helpful Tool to Treat Vehophobia

Medication can be a useful tool for reducing the impact of traumatic anxiety, although most therapists prefer that the more permanent behavioral therapies be attempted first. However, sometimes medications are deemed necessary to help relieve extreme, debilitating anxiety—in conjunction with cognitive and behavioral therapies.

Initial treatment can often include medication. Providers will also commonly recommend medication for short-term use in specific, infrequent situations. Beta-blockers and sedatives are two of the most common drugs used to treat phobias like vehophobia. Beta-blockers work by blocking the stimulating effects of adrenaline. This includes increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, pounding heart rate, and shaking body.

Sedatives, like benzodiazepines, help a patient relax by reducing the amount of anxiety they feel. However, sedatives are not the best choice for vehophobia since they can cause notable drowsiness. They also carry a significant risk of dependence.

Other Tips to Help Curb Vehophobia

Other ways to recover from an accident resulting in vehophobia can include:

  • Facing the fear head-on. Although this is best done with a therapist, if your PTSD is moderate, you can begin to face it yourself. Once you have confronted the idea, you can start to take small steps toward facing your fear completely.
  • Don’t let yourself be stopped by setbacks — every progress you make towards confronting your PTSD is good. Don't be discouraged when you experience fear, or avoid driving. This process will take strength and time.
  • Keeping the bigger picture in mind. Vehophobia can be costly to one's daily life, and you have much to gain if you can overcome this fear.
  • Stay positive — Your PTSD is most likely not severe or permanent; this is just one of the bumps in life's road—you will overcome it.

What Damages Can I Recover in a Car Accident Claim?

Regardless of why some people fear driving after an accident, the results can be extremely debilitating to their lives. Anyone who suffers from anxiety or who has had a panic attack before knows just how scary the whole situation can be. In addition to the general discomfort of the phobia, it is also extensively limiting to their everyday routines.

Crippling fear can make it impossible to pick up your kids from school, drive your date to a restaurant, go on a road trip, or run up to the grocery store.

Developing vehophobia after a car accident can have meaningful non-economic and financial consequences for you and your family. In personal injury law, we define non-economic damages as those that hold an emotional value but lack a price tag. They are just as valid as economic damages. Economic damages — monetary losses with set values — can quickly add up, compounding stress.

  • mental anguish
  • emotional distress
  • transportation costs
  • therapy
  • medication

You may be able to recover compensation for these costs if your vehophobia was caused by another party's negligence. Your economic damages and the toll of any physical injuries should be fairly straightforward to claim, provided you have evidence they are related to the negligence party's breach of duty. We recommend consulting a reputable car accident attorney, especially for calculating non-economic damages. They can help you asses the total value of your losses before moving forward.

Why Should I Hire Dolman Law Group to Represent Me in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

After more than a decade of serving injured accident clients, the personal injury attorneys of Dolman Law Group are aware of the emotional impact an accident can have. Our award-winning team has earned the respect of our fellow car accident lawyers as well as former clients by consistently demonstrating our ability to recover maximum compensation, including damages for emotional losses and trauma.

Dolman Law Group has a reputation for excellence based on more than the impressive settlements we negotiate. Our team prioritizes client needs, diligently pursues compensation, devotes individual attention to each case, and communicates clearly with clients. We encourage you to review our recommendations from former clients for insight into the character of our firm.

Our auto accident attorneys value the trust our clients place in their skills. In return, we make every effort to secure a settlement that acknowledges the true value of their losses. If you believe your vehophobia resulted from an accident caused by someone else's negligence, you should contact our law firm as soon as possible. You may have legal recourse for compensation. A skilled car accident lawyer can assist you in calculating and documenting your damages and determining liability.

Contact Dolman Law Group For Help With Your Car Accident Lawsuit

Experiencing post-traumatic stress or anxiety after a car accident is common and happens to millions. You are not alone, and you can also take comfort in knowing that there are many effective ways to help treat this issue.

At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we understand the devastating effects that a car accident can have. For this reason, we have devoted our practice to helping clients recover physically, financially, and emotionally. Our team will relentlessly pursue maximum compensation for non-economic damages such as vehophobia and economic damages.

You can depend on Dolman Law Group's personal injury attorneys to go above and beyond for your claim. We aren't afraid of taking your car accident lawsuit to trial to obtain a fair settlement. Contact our Clearwater office today to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

*The above information was written and reviewed by either Attorney Matthew Dolman or another injury lawyer at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, which has a combined 90 plus years of experience practicing Florida personal injury law. Matthew Dolman himself has been practicing personal injury law in Clearwater and St. Petersburg for the last fifteen (15) years. The information provided comes from extensive research and years of experience trying legal cases in courtrooms throughout Florida.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

Learn More