Fear of Heights While Driving: What Can You Do About It?

A bend in the road running through a forest
Image source: Wes Hicks (via Unsplash)

When living with acrophobia, it’s common to find yourself struggling with certain everyday activities. A major example of this is the ways in which a fear of heights can affect your driving. Left unchecked, this phobia can seriously impact on your quality of life, and can hold you back from achieving your goals and visiting new destinations.

In this article, we’ll discuss why you may experience a fear of heights while driving and highlight some potentially difficult scenarios for those living with this condition. Afterwards, we’ll provide some useful advice on how you can begin to control your fear and start enjoying your time on the road.

What causes a fear of heights while driving?

A fear of heights while driving may occur for numerous reasons. You may have experienced a traumatic event in the past, such as witnessing or being involved in a car accident. It can also originate from seeing an incident happen in a TV show or film, or even hearing about it in a story.

Alternatively, your symptoms may be caused by acrophobia—a fear of heights—or by another kind of phobia that you have. They could also be linked to anxiety or panic attacks that you experience. Meanwhile, some people’s fears can arise from their genetics.

Additionally, regardless of the underlying cause, many people’s fear of heights can be triggered or heightened by specific situations on the road. We’ll discuss two of the most common below: bridges and mountains.

Fear of driving over bridges

One of the most common ways in which a fear of heights can manifest itself behind the wheel is when driving across a bridge. Though closely linked to acrophobia, this condition is known more specifically as gephyrophobia.

There are various reasons why people may experience this phobia, including a fear of water or of drowning, or a general anxiety related to driving. For many individuals, however, the root cause is their relationship with heights.

It’s impossible to know exactly how many people suffer with this fear. Nonetheless, in certain parts of the US, it’s common enough that services are available which allow people to request a driver to take their car across bridges for them, enabling them to avoid facing their phobia.

Fear of mountain driving

A fear of heights can also affect drivers travelling in mountainous areas. Symptoms related to acrophobia may kick in when you’re driving up or down a steep hill, along a winding road, or on a mountain ridge. It can be linked to bathmophobia: a fear of slopes and stairs.

There are many potential situations in which people may experience this fear. For example, they may worry that their car will slide backwards downhill, or that they may careen off the road.

What symptoms may you experience?

Of course, all motorists should show extra care in these situations, as mountain driving can be challenging and potentially dangerous. However, acrophobia can cause drivers to exhibit behaviour that is not merely cautious, but which can be overly hesitant, avoidant or fearful.

If you suffer from acrophobia while on the road, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety, fear or panic which may be intense
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Sweating or chest pain
  • Nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Avoiding places or conditions that trigger or exacerbate your fear (e.g., bridges, mountains, adverse weather)

Alongside these, you may experience some of the more general symptoms of acrophobia. Together, they can make it difficult for you to get behind the wheel. Luckily, we’re here to help provide you with some ways to get your fear of heights under control.

How can you control your fear of heights while driving?

A person's hand on a steering wheel with a mountain road visible through the windshield
Image source: Ezra-Jeffrey Comeau (via Unsplash)

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably decided that now is the time to do something about your fear of heights—and that’s fantastic news! There are several different options available that can help you to manage your symptoms or even tackle the causes of your phobia.


One possible avenue to consider is treating your fear of heights with medication. This is not a treatment for acrophobia itself, but can help you to manage some of the symptoms associated with it. For example, beta blockers can help to regulate your heart rate and blood pressure. As such, they allow you to manage some of the physical symptoms you may experience as a result of your fear of heights.

It is important to note that you should only consider this option if it has been prescribed by your GP. Additionally, some medicines that may help to manage acrophobia may impair the control you have over your vehicle. Before taking any medication, be sure you are fully aware of the potential side-effects, and ensure that you know how your body reacts before getting behind the wheel.


Exposure therapy is a common technique used to treat phobias, and is considered one of the most effective methods of doing so. It works by slowly desensitising the patient to the object of their phobia by exposing them to it gradually. By acclimatising to driving over time, you will slowly start to reshape your feelings and rid yourself of negative thoughts towards your situation.

In the context of a fear of heights while driving, exposure therapy may begin with video clips from a driver’s point of view as they cross a bridge or go up a steep hill. Alternatively, you may use virtual reality to ‘experience’ the drive in a safe environment. Next, they may be driven on a set route by a therapist, friend or family member. At a later stage, they will drive across the same route themselves while accompanied.


In addition to exposure, other therapies are available that can help you to manage your acrophobia and other related conditions. One such option is cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT. This works by breaking down the thoughts and beliefs that impact upon your behaviour. By talking about your fears, you can start to recognise negative patterns and learn coping mechanisms to help you deal with them.

If you’re considering this option, then Climb Above Fear can help. Get in touch, and we’ll match you with one of our experienced and caring therapists. They’ll recommend a treatment plan that suits your needs and preferences, enabling you to tackle your fears and start driving with confidence.