Why is my husband's driving making me crazy?
June 29, 2014 8:03 AM   Subscribe

In the last 6 months, I have suddenly gone from being entirely comfortable riding in the car, to a glued to the seat, slamming the imaginary brake scaredypants whenever my husband drives. He hasn't changed. Why have I?

As background, I believe my husband is a safe driver. He is never the fastest car on the road, he doesn't tailgate (we live in a big city where most people do), he drives defensively. He has never been in an accident, and the only time he was hit that I know of (and I was with him at the time) was when he was stopped at a red light, and a cab tapped him from behind. He does drive above the speed limit and doesn't always leave 2 full car lengths, but that's the worst I can say about him as a driver.

I never had a problem until a few months ago - now it seems like he is always going too fast. I feel like he doesn't see the cars in the right lane are too close and he is going to sideswipe them, or that he isn't braking soon enough and will crash into the guy in front. This is especially true when we are in a construction area with smaller lanes, but it is also true when we are in stop-and-go-traffic and the car barely makes it to 5 mph. I have the same fear-of-fiery-crash where I catch myself stomping the imaginary brake and my heart racing when there is literally no chance of crashing. That's why I think the problem is me. Right now the only thing that sort of works is to look out the side window and not at the road. It seems to get worse when I can feel the accelerator kicking in. We have not changed cars or had our car serviced unusually. I don't ride enough with other drivers to have a basis for comparison if it is just him. I don't drive.

Could this be an inner-ear thing? Or an aging thing (I am approaching but not yet in peri-menopause)? Just random anxiety suddenly manifesting this way? I have a weird feeling that it must be something physiological, because I really don't believe he's being unsafe, and because it's just as bad at slow speeds. Any insight would be appreciated.
posted by my left sock to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This could be a subconscious thing - do you have anxiety about something else in your life and it's manifesting as fear during being a passenger while driving?

If this is a sudden change it may be your responding to other stressors in your life.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:11 AM on June 29, 2014

Could you possibly have a vision problem? Maybe a stigmatism that is causing problems with your depth perception?
I could have written this post. Seriously.
posted by MayNicholas at 8:15 AM on June 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Ever since my 11-year-old cousin and his dad (my uncle) died in a horrific car accident I have been like this in the car. Have you read about, witnessed, or been affected by a car crash recently?
posted by sockermom at 8:48 AM on June 29, 2014 [7 favorites]

Does he leave only two full car lengths even at highway speeds? Because that's way too close, and a reasonable thing to worry about. The other stuff does sound like bleed-over anxiety from something else.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:58 AM on June 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Has your car been serviced recently? I felt a bit like this when it turned out the shocks needed replacing. The car was kind of leaning in to curves and speed changes weirdly which my brain picked up on but didn't know how to interpret. New glasses do it too so maybe an eye check up is next on the list after a thorough car check up.
posted by shelleycat at 9:02 AM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

How is your husband's eyesight? Has he had it checked recently?
posted by srboisvert at 9:05 AM on June 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have poor depth perception, and I am far less jittery a passenger when I wear my glasses. Is it possible your eyesight has changed?
posted by Nimmie Amee at 9:20 AM on June 29, 2014

I became suddenly terrified of plane flight after a lifetime of enjoying it when I started taking Wellbutrin, and conversely plane flight doesn't bother me anymore since I went off it. Any medication changes like that that you've had recently?
posted by invitapriore at 9:24 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the inner ear thing is a possibility, especially given what you've said about acceleration/deceleration. Have you had a cold recently? Stuffed up ears and/or sinus problems? Hit your head on anything (even just a little)?

Alternately, has anything happened to you that could have shifted your center of gravity, or your perception of it? Have you lost or gained a lot of weight recently? Are you wearing tighter clothes when you drive? Buckling your seat belt differently (tighter or looser)? Is the car the same, or newish to you?
posted by kythuen at 9:56 AM on June 29, 2014

Has anything happened to you recently that may have shifted your awareness of risk and danger? If you've recently had kids or are planning to have kids, that is a common reason to have your danger threshold drop in unexpected ways.
posted by samthemander at 10:11 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe a long-term toxoplasmosis infection has cleared up -- allowing a natural risk aversion to resurface?
posted by glibhamdreck at 11:14 AM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have this with my poor partner.

It's because I have an anxiety disorder.
posted by hollisimo at 11:19 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you annoyed with your husband for any other reason?
posted by pineappleheart at 11:56 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you been driving more lately yourself? The more I drive, the more I am alert to things like other cars coming at our car, and then when I end up as a passenger, I get edgy, for a couple of reasons:

I know that I've seen the thing and am aware of it and if I was driving whether I would or wouldn't have reacted, but I don't know if the driver has seen the the thing and I can't tell if they have reacted.

People turning towards us, especially on the passenger side, feel *much* closer over there than they do from the driver's seat, so if you're reacting as if you were a driver it feels like impending doom.

Not being in control of the car is just scarier.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:14 PM on June 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

My first thought was anxiety, as well. When I'm really anxious, I find myself cringing any time a car gets anywhere close to me, even though I'm usually very comfortable and confident while driving. Is anything particularly stressful going on in your life right now? Have you noticed increased nervousness in other situations? Medication changes or hormonal changes might also be something to consider, although obviously IANAD.
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:16 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get your (or your husbands) eyes checked. My mother is legally blind as a early on when her eyesight started to fade it lead to problems with peripheral vision and blind spots this lead her to thinking things where moving faster or that gaps in traffic where different sizes than they were
I spent the few years up to her diagnosis being yelled at by her every time we drove.
posted by wwax at 3:55 PM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had this when I was sick, because (basically) my body was in a constant state of fight or flight arousal. I doubt this is what's going on with you because you'd notice the effect when you weren't in a car as well with noises, light, movement in your peripheral vision causing a reaction - though being in a car is much worse.

It does seem like a vision check would be a good place to start.

For coping strategies, we did a combo of my husband driving more conservatively and me closing my eyes when things felt scary. I explained which particular things were the most stressful for me (merging without ample room and being too close to the car in front of us). Oh and I made it clear that it was me not him and was appreciative for him adjusting his driving.
posted by pennypiper at 8:26 AM on June 30, 2014

My eyes need quite a different prescription to each other, which means that if I leave getting my glasses prescription updated for too long, its messes with my depth perception. I don't notice anything, because the change is so gradual, but your symptoms are what my passengers start to feel. I didn't actually start wearing glasses until I was 27 & what precipitated that was my friends basically staging an intervention with me about how much my driving was scaring them. Now that I wear glasses full time & am very conscientious about getting them updated every year, everyone is happy with my driving & I get much fewer headaches.

So basically I agree with what others have said about getting both your & your husband's eyesight checked.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 1:18 AM on July 1, 2014

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