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Getting Behind The Wheel Again After An Accident

Whether minor or major, a car accident can be a harrowing and traumatising event for all involved – both the victim(s) of the accident and the one(s) who caused the accident. Getting into a crash can deeply impact one’s confidence with driving. It can take time and real effort to return to a place where you feel calm and confident to hit the road. With 1,195 Australians killed in road-related deaths in 2019, which is over 3 a day on average, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution with driving; however, as it’s a large part of many people’s lives, don’t let an accident stop you from getting on with your life. So, how do you overcome the anxiety of getting behind the wheel again for the first time after an accident?

Today we look at some tips and strategies for getting you feeling confident and ready to get into the driver’s seat and back into your usual routine.

How A Car Accident Can Impact You

Witnessing a car accident can be stressful and shocking in itself, though nothing compares to actually being involved in one. Getting into a crash is scary and everyone responds to the experience differently. For many, a car accident results in decreased confidence in oneself (especially in regards to driving) and increased anxiety – some may never want to drive again. Simply sitting in the passenger seat can be anxiety-inducing for some, causing sweating, elevated heartbeat, panic attacks.

It’s important to remember that it’s completely natural to feel shaken and unsure after having an accident, no matter the severity of the accident and whether major or minor injuries resulted. While you may not have any physical scars or injuries from the accident, it may have a deep impact on you mentally and emotionally, taking time to heal. It is perfectly normal to have nightmares, reservations about driving, and concerns about even riding in a car at all in the aftermath. Whatever you may be feeling – stress, anxiety, fear and guilt – it’s all completely normal; however, it shouldn’t consume you and prevent you from living your life.

To help you overcome these feelings and get back behind the wheel, we propose some simple strategies for getting back on track with driving.

Tips For Regaining Your Confidence

1) Baby Steps

Lynda Matthews, Head of the Rehabilitation Counselling Unit at the University of Sydney, says “the general principle is, where there’s fear of something then it’s good to take it in small steps.”
This is especially true for driving. Getting behind the wheel again can feel like a huge process for those that have been involved in an accident. That’s why the first time it might be best to break up the process into smaller experiences, taking it nice and slow.

There are smaller steps you can take before driving by yourself on a busy road or highway – definitely don’t throw yourself into the deep end like that. Before embarking on any fast or challenging driving, take these smaller steps:

  • Just sit in the car with the engine on to get used to the feel of your car again. Only when you feel comfortable should you start changing gears and actually driving.
  • Start by driving around your neighbourhood, backstreets, and perhaps even empty parking lots to avoid facing traffic and other drivers if you’re not ready yet.
  • Get someone to ride with you for the first few times driving again. They can offer moral and emotional support, help you relax and make you feel more comfortable, provide instructions when and if necessary, and act as a back-up driver if you become overwhelmed.

It’s important to not push yourself too hard or too fast when starting to drive again. You must have realistic expectations and accept that it will take time to heal. It’s not going to happen overnight, so don’t be so hard on yourself!

Recover at your own pace. Driving too early will likely only worsen your anxiety and reaffirm the notion that you don’t want to drive anymore. On other hand, the longer you wait to drive again, the harder it will be when you do eventually get behind the wheel as fear and anxiety may build up the event in your head.

How long should you wait?

This changes person to person and depends on the scale of the accident. If you’ve been in a minor accident, give yourself a week or two to recover (if uninjured and your car is undamaged). This is a long enough break from driving for most – we’re sure you’ll start to feel the need to get back into your normal routine after this break. Of course, if there has been any damage to your car or any injury to yourself, you’ll want to wait for these issues to become resolved.

For major accidents, you may need to take two to three months off, especially if injury has resulted, as this will take time to heal properly. Further, your car might need more extensive repairs. Again, this timeframe will vary person to person and you should not feel bad for needing a little extra time.

2) Talk About It

Talking about your anxieties and fears with someone close and trusted (e.g. friend, family member) is known to help. You don’t have to bottle up your concerns and go through this experience alone. Processing your thoughts out loud in conversation with a trusted person is great for rationalising any fears and planning strategies for coping with anxiety. If you don’t have a friend or family member to reach out to for support (or you need a little more support), consider seeking professional help from a qualified mental health professional (e.g. counsellor). They are trained to help you get through situations like this, so get the help you are entitled to.

3) Driving Courses

Another strategy is to literally reteach yourself basic driver skills through lessons with an instructor. This is a great option if you think you might make an error and need the safety blanket of having a driving instructor with their own set of controls. You may only need one lesson to feel comfortable again as you realise you actually remember quite a lot about driving.

To add to this, and to develop further skills in driving that could prevent an accident in future, you should also consider enrolling in additional driving courses. For example, defensive driving courses show drivers how to identify and plan for high risk situations on the road. Again, having the extra instruction from a third-party in a controlled environment can help make you feel safe again and regain even more confidence.

4) Be Kind To Yourself

We are often our own most harshest critic; however, being hard on yourself in the car won’t help you drive better, so cut yourself some slack. It is important not to blame yourself for the accident and dwell on what has happened in the past – this is both unhealthy and unhelpful and will prevent you from moving on.

Instead consider what you learned from the accident. This is a better mindset to have. It is more productive and will likely make you a better driver in the long-run, as you’ll be more aware, diligent and cautious. Remind yourself that plenty of people experience car accidents and just like them, you’ll recover. Be gentle and do things you love to relax and take time for yourself to mentally and physically heal.

5) Ensure Your Car Is Safe

There’s no point getting back on the road if your car isn’t up to safety standards. Whether you require a new car due to damage from the accident or your existing car requires repairs, ensure that whatever vehicle you’re getting (back) into is safe and fit for the road. It may be worth getting a safety inspection of your car to ensure it’s not a write-off. It may also be worth avoiding certain models of cars, such as these, if you’re on the market for a new one.

Having a safer car can instil confidence. If you’re shopping for a new car, researching the safety ratings of potential cars is a good place to start. For existing cars needing repairs, ensuring the windscreen is chip and crack-free is important. If there are signs of breakage, get your windscreen repaired quickly as this is a major safety concern. On top of this, get your mirrors and headlights restored if needed, as these are essential driving components too. At Novus Autoglass, we can help get your car repaired and up to code, ready for the road.

Don’t let the fear and anxiety of driving after an accident stop you from enjoying the freedom and joy of driving your own car wherever your heart desires. You’ve learned how to drive completely from scratch before, and if you need to, you can do it again. It just takes time. Give yourself a break and try and find the joy and excitement in driving again, rather than looking at the challenge of it. Good luck!

Novus Autoglass is a global brand in glass repair. Novus repairs and replaces broken and cracked windscreens efficiently using the latest technology, to get you back on the road faster.
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