You might have been fortunate enough to walk away from a car crash without a scratch, but it does not automatically mean that you are completely comfortable getting back behind the wheel. Edward Hickling, Psy.D., who is the co-author of After the Crash: Psychological Assessment and Treatment of Survivors of Motor Vehicle Accidents, says that accidents affect people psychologically.
The result of this is that some drivers tend to become more cautious on the road. Others still may start feeling anxious whenever they pass the accident scene or find themselves driving in conditions similar to those at the time of the incident. Kenneth Reinhard, Ph.D., who is a board-certified clinical psychologist, says that those are just normal reactions that will start subsiding within a month. That said, if you were involved in a collision with a reckless driver, you would need to speak to a reckless driving accident lawyer. The steps below will help you regain your confidence once you are ready to get back behind the wheel.
Write down how the accident happened from beginning to end
You may find that your memories are a jumble at first, but the quickest path to recovery is making sense of them and putting them in chronological order. Hickling explains that writing a narrative of the accident will help you face the trauma and deal with your emotions. His treatment approach involves having patients repeat this exercise until thoughts of the accidents no longer become upsetting.
Avoid Keeping It to Yourself
Talking to family, friends, and other willing listeners about your experience will help ease the anxiety and fear and help you get rid of intrusive thoughts from your head. To be constructive, however, you will have to discuss the incident with strong emphasis on how you managed to survive and are now safe, says Reinhard.
Bring Another Driver into the Car with You the First Time
Having another driver with you the first time you go driving following your accident will make you feel safer and there will be somebody present to take over if you feel too overwhelmed to drive, says Reinhard. The number of times you will need company will depend on how confident you feel behind the wheel, so let your level of comfort guide you.
Start Out with Short, Undemanding Drives
Like an athlete that’s coming back after injury, it is important to ease back into your routine. Professional treatment usually involves stages of driving in less to more stressful situations to help you regain your confidence.
Never Avoid the Accident Site
Slowing your speed or changing your route because you feel nervous is counterproductive and is actually feeds the anxiety, says Hickling. If you feel that you are simply unable to return back to normal, when it comes to driving, there are several proven treatments that may help, which include traditional and cognitive behavior therapies.
Enroll for a Defensive Driving Course
Sharpening your driving skills can help you feel more confident behind the wheel – plus getting back in the car without anything bad happening can help reduce your anxiety, says Hickling. Defensive driving courses also help drivers identify and analyze unfolding situations that may turn dangerous and provide proactive procedures for minimizing other risks.