Survey - Almost 1 in 2 drivers admit to some nervousness behind the wheel

Top 5 anxiety triggers for drivers: icy roads, dangerous drivers, heavy rain or storms, unfamiliar roads, and busy urban areas

Men are twice as likely as women to be ‘very confident’ in their driving abilities

Almost half (48%) of drivers suffer some level of nervousness when behind the wheel, while one in ten drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 admit to feeling “almost always anxious while driving”. Research released today by Aviva Insurance Ireland DAC (Aviva) reveals that men are far more likely that women to be “very” confident in their driving abilities (71% versus 34%), while more women than men reported feeling anxious about the various challenges encountered on Irish roads.

The survey of almost 800 motorists nationwide was carried out by iReach Insights on behalf of Aviva and it found that the Top Five Triggers causing anxiety for drivers in Ireland:

  1. Icy roads or snow, with almost six in ten (56%) apprehensive about driving in such conditions
  2. Observing dangerous or aggressive drivers (50%)
  3. Driving in heavy rain or storms (41%)
  4. Driving on unfamiliar roads (32%)
  5. Driving in busy urban areas (24%)

The survey asked respondents how they overcome their driving challenges and found that planning is key when it comes to overcoming driver anxiety. More than one in three (35%) drivers say they combat driver anxiety by planning their journey, so they know exactly where they’re going. The second most common way that drivers manage their anxiety behind the wheel is to drive slower, with more than one-third (34%) saying that reducing their speed significantly helps, even if they’re not driving particularly fast.

It is well known that the driving test is one of the most stressful events in a driver’s life. However, our survey shows that anxiety around driving is not just confined to the much-feared driving test. Instead, the anxiety experienced by drivers is much broader and much more of a daily occurrence than we might think.

Alan Behan, Motor Product Manager, Aviva

Interestingly, a significant cohort of drivers (21%) are nervous when driving on narrow country roads. Given that 72% of road deaths are on rural roads, this is perhaps not surprising. Sadly, the latest Road Safety Authority (RSA) figures show that road deaths in the first half of 2023 were the worst for six years. There could be much merit in the Government’s plans to reduce speed limits on secondary, rural, and urban roads. International research shows that 30% of fatal collisions have occurred as a direct result of speeding or inappropriate speed. Anything that can help save lives on Irish roads is a step in the right direction.

Alan Behan, Motor Product Manager, Aviva

Other headline findings from the Aviva’s survey reveal that:

  • Just over one in five (22%) drivers are nervous about driving abroad.
  • Almost twice as many women (31%) as men (17%) are apprehensive about driving in busy urban areas. Similarly, twice as many women (15%) as men (7%) worry about driving on motorways. In addition, significantly more women (50%) than men (30%) are anxious about driving in heavy rain and storms. Women were also more inclined than men to worry about driving on narrow country roads or other dangerous aggressive drivers.
  • Avoidance is another common strategy used by those managing driver anxiety. Almost one in three (32%) won’t drive if there’s snow or ice on the roads while almost one in five (17%) won’t drive during a storm or heavy rain. More than one in five (22%) won’t drive abroad. One in seven (14%) avoid driving during rush hour. Women are much more inclined than men to avoid driving in situations they’re uncomfortable as a way of managing their anxiety.
  • One in ten (10%) said that listening to music helps with driving nerves.
  • Dubliners are the least inclined to avoid driving in stormy or icy conditions. This however could be because urban roads are more likely to be gritted ahead of a cold snap than more isolated rural roads.
  • The younger age cohort are much more nervous about driving on motorways. At 60%, those aged over 55 are most likely to say they are very confident in their driving abilities. By contrast, just one-third (33%) of 18- to 24-year-olds felt the same, though this is not surprising given the over 55’s would generally have more experience driving.

Our survey offers an interesting insight into driving anxiety and how drivers try to overcome it. Driver anxiety can be debilitating for some – even prompting them not to drive when they are perfectly capable of doing so,” concluded Alan Behan.

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Aviva Group Services Ireland Limited, a private company limited by shares. Registered in Ireland No.322579. Registered Office: Cherrywood Business Park, Dublin, Ireland, D18 W2P5.