Right on Red: a Story of Fear and Faith


Though I took driver’s ed when I was sixteen, I didn’t actually start driving until I was eighteen. By the time I was nineteen, I was driving myself to work and to social events, but every time I got behind the wheel, I was a wreck.

I hate driving, I told people. But that wasn’t necessarily true. I didn’t hate the feel of the wheel in my hands, the thrill of being pressed into my seat as I accelerated, the independence that came with being able to take myself places. As a matter of fact, I loved those things. What I hated was my fear, and I was terrified of driving.

You see, while I was still in driver’s ed, coming to an intersection in that dinged up car with two sets of brakes, I had my first wreck. It was very minor, but in the moment, when I was thinking of a million things at once and all I could hear was the sound of crushing metal and my sister in the backseat saying, “It looks like a lady and some kids”, it wasn’t my life that flashed before my eyes, but theirs.

I burst into tears at the thought of those children in the car behind. I pulled into a parking lot and called my mom and the cops. The woman who rear-ended me was merely annoyed. Her children were perfectly fine, but I was not. What if those kids had never arrived at their destination, never unbuckled their car seats, and stepped out of the car? I couldn’t imagine what that would do to their mom, and I couldn’t imagine what it would do to me.

So I hated driving. I feared all of the responsibility. I feared it because I hate risk and consequences.

At nineteen, I started having panic attacks at the wheel (and there really isn’t a worse place!). I would pull over onto side streets and cry because I had missed a turn or someone had honked at me. The more I thought about how ridiculous it was, the more frustrated I became and the less safe the road became. I longed to be back riding shotgun, where no decision was mine. I longed to be the passenger on this entire ride, never having to face responsibility, never having to discern. I grew to hate right turns because, when the light was red, it was my call. I didn’t want it to ever be my call again.

“Right on red” might as well have been wrong on red. What if I made a mistake? I felt like I had a million blind spots and no headlights. I began to realize that this wasn’t a driver’s ed issue, but a heart issue, and my heart was terror-stricken.

It would be awhile before I confidently navigated the roads. I would have to learn to stay calm, to stop sweating the small stuff and to move forward, literally and figuratively, when I made a mistake. I would also come to realize that much of my fear of driving came from other sources of anxiety (anxiety plays on more anxiety, if you haven’t noticed). Getting comfortable in my own skin and confident in my skills as a driver made a world of a difference.

My fear of driving, of being the one behind the wheel, is such a perfect allegory of my overall lack of trust. I so often wish I could revert to the days of being “too young to blame.” However, God made us to grow, learn and become independent. Gaining responsibility is actually part of His plan.

It has been nearly four years since those panic-stricken days. I recently drove to a neighboring town without a moment of fear. Though I still prefer green arrows, I can handle a few right-on-red turns! I’ve given up being a mere passenger on this journey. God wants to give me the wheel sometimes. After all, there is no power I can take from His hands. With all of my prayer, all of my trembling, sweaty-browed fear of doing wrong, my God is faithful to guide me. Sometimes He blesses me with green arrows–very clear direction. Other times He blesses me with a right-on-red and trusts me to trust Him.

There is no road I can take, no mistake I can make, no turn I can miss, no decision I can blow, that can ever separate me from the love or protection of my God.

“He will guide us forever.” Psalm 48:14

Photography: JenniMarie Photography


  1. Truth be told, I have always feared driving although it gave me that arousing feeling of thrill and whatnot. However, I was encouraged by this lady whose real-life experience is far more harrowing than mine. Praise the Lord always for safety (Proverbs 21;31).

  2. Thanks for sharing! I had anxiety about driving when I first got my drivers license- particularly in wrt weather. I had a fear of dying in an accident- my mum had lost 2 of her sisters in one when they were 16 &18. Passing that age the anxiety left. I’ve had anxiety over many other things & the way I over came it was through therapy-CBT. There are books that can be done at home. Mostly it was about challenging my thinking & being proactive about recognising what the triggers are. Biblically we need to recognise while we aren’t in control there is no need to fear- God meets us in our need, & anxiety reflects our desire or belief we are in control.

  3. I went through that anxiety about driving phase too. I’m not entirely sure why but in the end, I realized that it was stemming from a root of fear and an overall lack of trust that God would get me through the learning process. He taught me a lot while I had my permit and also after I had my license. We really can rely on Him for strength, courage, peace and guidance! 🙂 Thankfully, for the most part, I don’t mind driving now and have yet to be in an accident (Praise the Lord!).

  4. This is ME! Except that I never even had a wreck, and I’m still scared to drive more than 10 years later…just gives me the shivers. Never even got my license. But I have to grow up and get with the times, right? My mom has panic attacks when she drives, and I’m partly nervous I’ll be like her.

    Right now I live in a country where the traffic safety is severely lacking, and I realize daily that there is hardly anything I can do to save my own life. I climb into the public transportation and tell the Lord that my life is His. I suppose you have to say that same prayer when you’re behind the wheel of a car.

    I know you were talking more about decision-making, though…

    When I was single I hated making those life decisions on my own, and now that I have someone else to plan life with, I find myself sometimes failing in the smaller, more personal decisions, like how to use my internet time wisely. So in different seasons there can be different areas of dependence and independence.

  5. Oh my goodness! I am currently going through this exact thing I thought I was the only one. Driving is a nightmare for me, and I make my husband drive as often as I can, or I have him stay on the phone with me while I drive. I would love to know in a little more detail what exactly helped you get over it, because I need to be able to drive to work, but it’s just getting harder and harder. I am so encouraged though, to know that I don’t have to go through this forever! Thank you for that, even if that wasn’t your intention! 🙂

  6. Even at 32, this fear has been persistent in me. At times i asked God for answers and today he did answer me through your write up! Thank you

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