It's something nearly every driver dreads. It's a moment no one wants to experience, and, depending on the circumstances, it can leave both physical and mental scars for years to come, or even for a lifetime. It's so real, and scary, in fact, that when it happens in movies, you'll see many viewers wince unconsciously.
We're talking about car accidents. If you've been in one — and especially a serious one — you know that they can be life changing and traumatic. Aside from the physical harm associated with accidents, there is a very real psychological toll that affects drivers following a serious accident. In fact, a study by the American Psychological Association showed that car accidents are the number-one cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the United States.
Unfortunately, for those dealing with accident-related PTSD — as well as those who just feel a little nervous to drive again following an accident — getting back on the road is rarely optional. Driving is just a near-daily reality for most of us, and not driving often isn't an option.
So what's to be done? How can drivers who are worried about getting back on the road overcome their fear and return to a sense of calm and normalcy while driving? There is no single cure-all solution, but here are a few tips that could prove helpful for some drivers.
Start slow. If it's your first time driving again after an accident, drive around in low-speed areas and get your wheels under you, so to speak. You may feel some tension, and that's to be expected. It's not necessarily a bad thing to feel a little on edge, if you can take that tension and turn it into something productive: awareness. By converting your tension into heightened awareness instead of just stress, you can drive a little more safely every time you get behind the wheel. You will likely drive a little more carefully after a car accident, regardless of the cause, and you should embrace that approach.
Stay positive. While this can be difficult to do, especially following very serious accidents, it's important to remember that, overall, driving is a pretty safe activity, and it's gotten a lot safer over the years. The safety systems in modern vehicles would be absolutely mind blowing to early drivers. If you're looking to purchase a new vehicle following your accident, you should prioritize getting one with a high safety rating. Technology can go a long way towards making you safer on the road, and, just as importantly, it can help you feel safer and more in control following an accident.
Apply the lessons you learned. No matter the circumstances of your accident, there's something you can take away from it, to apply to your future driving endeavors. If you can learn from a difficult circumstance and applies those learnings to improve yourself and you’re driving abilities, then you gained something from it. Don't let your increased caution become paranoia; stay focused on driving safely and avoiding dangerous situations on the road, doing the best you can on each trip. You'll stack up drive after drive, and before you know it, you'll be back to your normal driving routine.