When I turned 15, my stepfather decided it was time to teach me how to drive. Initially I was excited to enter this new chapter of my life. Knowing how to drive meant I would finally have a license, my own car and the ability to take myself anywhere without needing to rely on my parents.
I remember the day my stepfather took me out for my first lesson. We started off in a nearly vacant parking lot and continued practicing there for a few days. But once we moved our lessons onto the busy streets, my nerves took over.
It took me four tries to pass my behind-the-wheel test. Even after I received my license and a new car, I still despised being on the road. To this day, my nerves still get in the way, constantly hindering my performance. I avoid freeways, busy traffic hours and I Uber anywhere that is not local. Whenever I’m required to drive myself somewhere, my entire mood shifts. My heart beats fast, I sweat profusely and the simple thought of being behind the wheel makes me want to cry.
When I was six, my father died in a fatal car crash. As time has passed, I have linked my irrational fear of driving to this incident. I recognize that the images of the crash are permanently imprinted in my mind, creating this unfounded fear in my subconscious. However, I don’t know if my fear is completely irrational, considering about 1.25 million people die in car crashes each year, an average of 3,287 deaths a day, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel. I’m afraid of becoming one of those numbers. On top of this, I’ve been a passenger during six different car crashes since the death of my father, only adding to my fear of being involved in another one, especially if I were to be the driver of the vehicle.
My fear of driving also stems from my poor vision. I was born with an eye condition called optic nerve hypoplasia that left me completely blind in my right eye, making anything in my right-side peripheral difficult to see. Growing up, I never felt I was any different from those around me who were capable of seeing out of two eyes. I simply learned how to perform specific tasks a little differently, like sitting in the front in all of my classes or reading books with bigger print to prevent straining my one good eye.
However, driving created a huge division that I wasn’t ready for. This one task proved to be far more tedious than all others. Learning how to drive with one 20/40 vision eye involved lots of patience and practice compared to those with two working eyes. My eye condition also throws off my depth perception, so I had to learn how to understand distances between cars and stop signs, especially at night when all the bright lights are just another blinding hindrance.
Although my eye condition is a factor, it’s evident that my fear of driving has stemmed primarily from my childhood trauma. I’ve always been a very independent woman who winces at the idea of needing to rely on anyone, so fearing something that requires so much self-sufficiency is upsetting. I hope to one day outgrow this fear, as my anxiety is caused by my own doubtful thoughts.
But until then I’ll continue to Uber everywhere.