Some 28-percent of people were overwhelmed and overstimulated when the hit the highway for the first time in months

Quarantine and lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on all of us, but one of the less talked about side effects is how it affects our eagerness and comfort behind the wheel. A new study commissioned by has shed some light on how months of driving affected people, and I’m here to tell you that the results are quite surprising with effects spread across all age groups and sexes.

Driving Becomes Overwhelming After a Few Months Off

The car insurance team at surveyed 1,207 U.S. residents that drive on a regular basis – think to and from work, for instance. All of these participants were asked how they feel now that they are starting to drive again after months of lockdown.

As it turns out, the results are very telling in terms of how quickly our comfort levels with driving in general, or our nerve as I like to call it, can fade away.

In short, 28-percent of the participants, or about 337 people, said they felt overwhelmed and overstimulated once they returned to their regular driving habits post quarantine and lockdown. More interesting than that is the fact that there was very little difference between the male and female participants in the study. It should be noted, however, that age did play a notable factor, with nearly 40-percent of those age 65 or older feeling “very” overwhelmed by driving while those in the 18-35-year-old range generally felt “somewhat” overwhelmed or overstimulated, if at all.

So what was so overwhelming about getting back on the road after months of little to no driving? Well, many reported that it had to do with what was going on around them. Think about all of the traffic on busier roads and highways, for example – something a lot of people haven’t had to deal with in quite a while. Even if you did go out, traffic was sketchy at best. Some areas even saw rush hour traffic creep down to almost nothing during the harshest periods of lockdown. One person in the study explained the feeling:

”Getting on the freeway for the first time in two months was surreal. It took a lot more focus to feel comfortable merging through traffic. I had to pay close attention to what all the other cars around me were doing. My instincts just weren’t there.”

And I think that’s the big takeaway.

After a few months of little to no driving, our instincts behind the wheel quickly fade.

Some participants did admit that after about a week of driving regularly, it started to feel normal again; however, so the side effects don’t last long.

With all of this in mind, I’m curious to see what the official statistics for accidents will be now that more and more people are returning to the road. If this study is representative of most drivers, It could be possible that we see an increase in traffic incidents over the next few months as more and more people return to their usual daily routine. Then again, being overwhelmed and overstimulated can also lead to being more cautious behind the wheel, something that could lead to fewer traffic incidents.

What’s on my mind now is that this also gives us a looking glass into the future. When fully autonomous cars finally take over in the next decade or so, humans, in general, will eventually get so comfortable not driving that the mere act of doing so would lead to anxiety, discomfort, and potentially even panic. It goes to show that once we really go driverless, there’s probably no going back, and I’m not sure I’m ready to live in that world quite yet.


Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert -
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
About the author
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: