The Fear of Winter Driving in the Snow

Why It Probably Isn't a Phobia

Woman driving in the snow

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The fear of winter driving does not have an official "phobia name," but it is an incredibly common and, most of the time, rational fear. For some people, the fear of driving in winter weather stems from a larger overall fear of driving. Others are afraid solely of winter driving conditions.

A fear and a phobia of winter driving are not the same issues. If you have a phobia, you have an irrational fear that interferes with your ability to function efficiently at home or at work. You also must meet the criteria for diagnosis as outlined by the latest American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Fear of Driving

If you are afraid of driving in general, it only makes sense that your fear might extend to driving in inclement weather. Snow and ice decrease visibility, increase stopping distance, and enhance the chances of being involved in an accident. Many people with driving fears find that the more challenging a particular drive is, the more fearful they become.

Winter Phobias

The fear of winter driving may be related to a wide range of other winter phobias. If you are afraid of snow, cold weather, or being trapped, driving in winter may enhance your fears. Some people prefer to take public transportation or ride with friends, while those with more severe fears may refuse to get into a vehicle at all.

Unfamiliarity With Winter Conditions

Simply being unfamiliar with winter weather conditions can greatly increase your chances for developing a fear of driving in poor weather, even if you do not have other driving or winter-related phobias.

If you suddenly move or travel from a warm-weather locale to a place known for its winter storms, the feeling may be overwhelming as you try to deduce how and when to use snow tires or chains, calculate stopping distances, and learn to steer out of a skid.

Even my father, an engineer who grew up in Florida, was befuddled on a Christmas vacation. We left the hotel to discover a thick layer of ice on our car. My dad rubbed his gloved hands on the windshield, but the ice refused to budge. A man handed my father a small blue implement that we had never seen. Dad quickly realized it was an ice scraper, but he had to ask the man which end to use! Fortunately, the roads had been cleared and the temperature was rising, but we would have had little idea what to do if it was actively snowing.

Managing the Fear of Winter Driving

The fear of winter driving varies widely in severity and the level of impact it has on people's lives. If your fear is less severe or based primarily on unfamiliarity with winter road conditions, educating yourself about driving methods and carefully planning your route may be enough to alleviate your concerns.

More severe fears and phobias, however, may require professional assistance. Fortunately, the fear of winter driving, like all driving phobias, responds well to a variety of treatment options. If your phobia is rooted in another fear, your therapist will develop a treatment plan that addresses all of the surrounding issues as well as the winter driving concerns. With hard work and a bit of help, you can conquer your fear.

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  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.