Help! My Loving Husband Is a Reckless Driver
Or is the problem deeper? See what Ask Amy says
A wife has developed Amaxophobia, a fear of riding in a vehicle, but her husband of 30 years continues to be a reckless driver – and accuses her of ruining their retirement. See what Amy Dickinson advises in this installment of Ask Amy.
I have been married to my husband for more than 30 years. Our relationship is loving, but challenging.
I have always done most of the changing, adapting, and forgiving.
Apologizing is not his forte, but he is a good, kindhearted man.
We’re both professionally successful and supportive of each other. Our adult children all live nearby. We’re a close and loving family.
I’ve recently developed a condition called Amaxophobia – a specific phobia about riding in a vehicle.
Symptoms include extreme anxiety, shortness of breath, nausea, and a racing heart.
I have all of these symptoms – but only when I am a passenger in the car that my husband is driving.
It does not affect me when I am the driver, or riding with other people.
My husband has always been a reckless driver, speeding and tailgating other cars.
In the last few years, I have had to hold onto the seat or side door and press my feet into the floor to feel safe, but recently, my anxiety has increased.
The last time we rode together I was in tears: sweating, having difficulty breathing, teeth grinding, and terrified about having an accident.
We’ve had long discussions about this. He has agreed to drive more slowly, but doesn’t.
I suggested that he drive locally, and I drive on highways.
He is unwilling to make this change, so I’ve been going to the city (45 minutes away) with friends for the past several months – still agreeing to ride as a passenger with him when we’re in town.
He now blames me for ruining our future retirement. He’s unwilling to go to therapy.
I have no other anxiety or fear issues.
Any suggestions I’m overlooking?
Wife Looking for Answers
Your husband’s career as a reckless driver, speeding, and tailgating, is more likely to lead to an accident as he ages and his reaction time slows.
I doubt that he would allow a neutral person to assess his driving, but the AARP does offer an online driving course (aarpdriversafety.org); I assume that successfully passing this course could lower insurance rates, in addition to coaching your husband toward safer driving.
He has staked his position, and you should be very matter of fact about your options and choices.
Your body’s extreme anxiety response is a distinct signal telling you what you need to do. This is your “fight or flight” response in high gear.
I suggest that you buy, borrow, or rent a second car – or use other transportation – when you and he are traveling a far distance, so that you can safely arrive at your destination and (fingers crossed) see your husband there when you arrive.
Arriving safely at a destination does not ruin your retirement; it saves it.
Please, seek therapy for yourself, both to manage your anxiety and to discuss your response to your husband’s rigidity and lack of respect.
Reader response to reckless driving husband
“Wife Looking for Answers” was terrified by her husband’s reckless driving. We faced this, too. Our solution came from our insurance company. We installed a “Drive Safe and Save” device and have an app on our phones.
It monitors your speed, acceleration, cornering, braking and phone distraction. Tracking the data became a game.
When our insurance rates dropped from good driving, we were both happy!
Several readers suggested this. “Gamifying” safe driving seems to work.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from a thoughtless husband who is also a reckless driver to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2022 by Amy Dickinson