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What Is the Fear of Winter Driving?

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Updated December 31, 2012

Question: What Is the Fear of Winter Driving?

The fear of winter driving does not have an official "phobia name," but it is an incredibly common fear. For some people, the fear of driving in winter weather stems from a larger overall fear of driving. Others are afraid solely of winter driving conditions.

Answer:

Fear of Driving

If you are afraid of driving in general, it only makes sense that your phobia might extend to driving in inclement weather. Snow and ice decrease visibility, increase stopping distance, and enhance the chances of being involved in an accident. Many people with driving phobias find that the more challenging a particular drive is, the more fearful they become.

Winter Phobias

The fear of winter driving may be related to a wide range of other winter phobias. If you are afraid of snow, cold weather, or being trapped, driving in winter may enhance your fears. Some people prefer to take public transportation or ride with friends, while those with more severe fears may refuse to get into a vehicle at all.

Unfamiliarity

Simply being unfamiliar with winter weather conditions can greatly increase your chances for developing a fear of driving in poor weather, even if you do not have other driving or winter related phobias. If you suddenly move or travel from a warm-weather locale to a place known for its winter storms, you may feel overwhelmed. Trying to deduce how and when to use snow tires or chains, calculating stopping distances, and learning to steer out of a skid are skills that must be learned.

Even my father, an engineer who grew up in Florida, was befuddled on a Christmas vacation. We left the hotel in Williamsburg, Virginia, to discover a thick layer of ice on our car. He began rubbing his gloved hands on the windshield, but the ice refused to budge. The man in the car parked beside us reached out and handed my father a small blue implement that we had never seen. Dad quickly realized that it was an ice scraper, but he had to ask our benefactor which end to use! Fortunately, the roads had been cleared and the temperature was rising, but we would have had little idea what to do if it was actively snowing. Over time, the anxiety associated with unfamiliarity could escalate into a full-blown phobia.

Managing the Fear of Winter Driving

Like all phobias, the fear of winter driving varies widely in severity and the level of impact it has on people's lives. If your phobia is less severe or based primarily on unfamiliarity with winter road conditions, educating yourself about driving methods and carefully planning your route may be enough to alleviate your concerns. More severe phobias, however, may require professional assistance. Fortunately, the fear of winter driving, like all driving phobias, responds well to a variety of treatment options. If your phobia is rooted in another fear, your therapist will develop a treatment plan that addresses all of the surrounding issues as well as the winter driving concerns. With hard work and a bit of help, you can conquer your fear.

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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