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Bridge Anxiety

Is there a car that may help with discomfort driving over bridges and overpasses? Through the years my anxiety driving over bridges and overpasses has been increasing, while the car I drive has been getting smaller. I’ve heard that AWD vehicles have a different feel to them… The last couple of years I’ve been driving a 2011 Subaru Forester. Chronologically I’ve gone from a Dodge Caravan to a Toyota Sienna to a Toyota Rav-4 (front-wheel drive not 4-wheel) to the Subaru Forester…

The thing I don’t like about bridges is the constant bump bump bump b/c of the expansion joints in the roadbed. It feels sort of creepy. I prefer to drive my Corolla over the bridges b/c of that, the better suspension and lower center of gravity.

I had a friend with that anxiety, and his complaint was the visual image of the repeating patterns he’d see going by off to the side. You know, the cables, and pillars, etc going by in a repeating way. The sight of those things going by made him dizzy. His solution was to avoid driving on bridges, at least the big ones we have in the SF Bay Area, like the Golden Gate, the Bay Bridge, & San Mateo Bridge.

I feel your anxiety. I don’t like them either, especially the ones we have up north with the wire grates in the center of it. I think the worst bridge I ever went over was the Chesapeake Bay bridge by Annapolis. Long and way up in the air and once you go over, you have to come back. Even the Mackinaw Island bridge in Michigan was not as bad as that one. I think the cars you have are just fine as long as they are stable. FWD AWD shouldn’t make much difference unless on ice and snow. It can get pretty windy on some up high so a smaller lower car can be a little better. Otherwise if you keep you eye on the horizon instead of right in front of you, it can be less distracting. I prefer to smoke going over them. Other than that its just psychological.

Can you tell us what exactly your discomfort is driving over a bridge? Is it just fear of heights or water? Is it the way the car feels and drives on the road surface? Do you feel less in control of your car on a bridge, or are you worried about the bridge itself?

A lot of people get queezy driving over bridges. I do. Long suspension bridges are even worse because they sway considerably.

I’ve read that the Golden Gate Bridge has state employees whose sole job it is to drive people with this problem over the bridge (no charge). They then turn the car back over to the owner after the owner has had a chance to recover from the trauma. They do nothing but drive back & forth assisting scared drivers all day long. They tell stories of people crumpled up in the back seat of their car crying and shaking with fear while going over the bridge. If I were to drive the Golden Gate Bridge, I’d probably have to access their services.

There’s no car that can compensate, but staying on the inside lane and focusing on the road in front of me helps.

I have never heard that GG Bridge story and have lived in San Francisco for 27 years. We don’t even have manned tollbooth anymore so I don’t know where they would request this. Besides, for many the fear is just as bad when someone else is driving. I’ve never been bothered by this knuckle, for where I live.) Crossing the GG Bridge or Bay Bridge towards SF is still a thrill for me. Crossing the GG Bridge northbound is just about as good as you have better views of the Bay. Wonderful Sunday drive roads all over Marin, Sonoma, and Napa (other directions, too.)

IMHO, the type of vehicle has little or–more likely–nothing to do with “bridge anxiety”.
This is essentially a psychological issue, and is something that can probably only be relieved–over time–through therapy.

Medication is also a possibility, but I would suggest an extended regimen of talk therapy before resorting to psychoactive medication, due to the possible side effects of this type of medication in regard to your alertness/attentiveness while driving.

well I ve found that vehicle with large profile that catches the wind can be hard to control on bridges.

so low is the way to go…

empty pickups seem to bounce over the expansion joints too.
hard suspension may not help

the Chesapeake bay bridge-tunnel offers drivers to wary travelers, not sure about Chesapeake bay bridge…

I agree, maybe an intermediate sedan would give a stable feel.

My wife has a hard time passing over bridges, buy only when there is solid ground below. If it is over water she has no problem.

The only time I got real nervous was years ago. We had taken a trip to Texas and I’m not sure of the highway and it was not really a bridge…more like a long levy.
We were coming into Dalas from the east and a south wind was so strong it was hard to keep the big 9passenger wagon in the lane. I thought that the wind was going to push us right into the guardrail. I think it took 10 minutes to get the color back in my hands,I was gripping the wheel so hard.


My parents were raised in Long Island NY, and both happened to drive VW beetles. They said those cars used to get blown all over the place on the bridges.

My fiancé gets nervous just going on overpasses on the highway.

I think it’s natural to feel some anxiety crossing them, but don’t let it debilitate you. If the whole bridge is going to come crashing down it’s out of your control. Throw caution to the wind (or off the bridge!) and cross that thing! I know it’s easier said than done. Personally, I hate flying for the same reasoning. But sometimes you just gotta let go.

I don t like tunnels, the bad air combined with no shoulder or median to escape to in an emergency makes me uncomfortable

Could be worse…Gallopin Girdy…over Puget Sound, in Washington state.

Now that was a swaying bridge. I think it tore itself to pieces before it was a year old.


I don’t suffer from bridge anxiety, but I do feel more nervous when I am crossing a tall overpass or bridge when I am high up on a motorcycle than when I’m low to the ground in a car. Every once in a while it occurs to me that I could easily fling myself over the side of the bridge. One reason that doesn’t freak me out is that I’ve always been a strong swimmer, and when I was a child we practiced jumping into the pool fully clothed and then using our pants as a life preserver by tying a knot at the bottom of the legs and blowing air into them. I think if I was flung into the water wearing my motorcycle gear, I could get out of it and either swim to safety or stay alive long enough to be rescued. As long as I’m conscious when I hit the water, I think I would have a fighting chance to survive.

Being low to the ground in a car means you usually can’t see as well over the barriers on the sides of the road you’re on. It also means you have a lower center of gravity. These things should work in your favor.

Mark, perhaps I have the wrong bridge or perhaps they stopped doing it decades ago, I don’t know, but I do have memories of such information, as well as the stories told by the guys whose job it was to provide the assistance. Such assistance is still offered over some bridges.

When I was in college I worked summers at Mesa Verde National Park, and on days off I made extra money driving people in and out of the Park in their cars and motor homes. They would come from the flatlands of America, and just freeze up when they had to negotiate the winding, cliff edge road that ran about 15 miles into the Park. I drove people who would sit on the floor with a blanket over their head.

It’ clearly not a function of what vehicle you drive. If crossing bridges or tunnels or whatever is a problem and is causing you significant issues, see a psychologist.

I wonder if…
These newer cars, where the window belt line is so dang high, would offer a more secure feeling by virtue of changing your vision line over the sides ?

My wife is afraid of heights…can’t stand on a two step kitchen stool. But when flying in our Cessna 172 she felt secure enough and had no ‘‘fear of heights’’ because of the boxed in cabin feel.

Replying to asemaster’s question:
“Can you tell us what exactly your discomfort is driving over a bridge? Is it just fear of heights or water? Is it the way the car feels and drives on the road surface? Do you feel less in control of your car on a bridge, or are you worried about the bridge itself?”
–I think it’s mostly the way the car feels… but I have not tried renting other cars yet to see if other cars would make a difference… I have confidence in the structural integrity of bridges & overpasses…

What you have is a very common phobia, and phobias are fears that cannot be explained logically. All efforts to do so, even by psychologists and medical scientists, come up short.

When I was young I used to be able to run around the tops of B52 aircraft without fear or reservation. I seriously doubt if I could now. When I bought my house years a go I painted all the trim on both floors. Last summer I tried and cannot get beyond about the fourth step of extension the ladder. I freeze. Same house, same ladder, same me. There’s no logical reason why. I’ve simply developed a common phobia.

Some people get terrified in the dark, even in their own homes, no matter how safe the home is. There’s absolutely no logical reason why they should.

Read the link I posted earlier. You’ll discover how common these types of phobias are.
It ain’t the car. It’s just part of being human.

We in Minnesota had confidence in the structural integrity of bridges too until the I 35 bridge went down. Then we find out that the engineers back then designed bridges so that if one part fails, the whole bridge comes down, with no redundancy. Then think of the Silver Bridge in Ohio-one eye bolt failure and down with the bridge. There are many many of these bridges engineered in the 60’s still in use. Little did we know. But we have to use them and we’re going to the great beyond someday anyway. Still wouldn’t hurt to have some rope and a flotation device in the car.