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13 Car Superstitions and Phobias

car superstitions cars driving over bridge

Nearly 30% of Americans describe themselves as at least somewhat superstitious, according to a YouGov America study. And roughly 19 million Americans have one or more phobias. reports Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

As such a common yet dangerous activity, maybe it’s not surprising that a host of superstitions and phobias revolve around driving. And although these practices and conditions have vastly different affects on people, they are both ways we hope to garner good luck and safe passage while on and off the road.

Here are some of the most common car superstitions and phobias.

Car Superstitions

Car Coining

This term refers to the practice of throwing a few spare coins onto the floor of a new car. Those who partake in the practice believe it will give them good luck. This tradition may have practical, and not superstitious, origins. Before the days of E-ZPass, tolls had to be paid in cash. It wasn’t uncommon for drivers to keep loose change on the dashboard or in cupholders, where it could easily fall to the floor.

car superstitions driving through tunnel
(Credit: David Salafia)

Holding Your Breath

One of the most common car superstitions is holding your breath as you drive through a tunnel or past a graveyard. The reasoning behind the practice usually varies. One belief is that if you hold your breath through the entirety of the tunnel and make a wish, it will come true. Others claim there’s a more practical motive. The change in air pressure in the tunnel hurts their ears and holding their breath helps alleviate the pain. As for the cemetery, most claim it prevents disturbing the dead and/or breathing in a spirit.

How the ‘holding your breath’ superstition came to be is difficult to pin down. One interesting theory is mentioned in a 1903 book, “Tube, Train, Tram, and Car.” It claims that back in the day, there was a belief that tunnel air could cure whooping cough. Parents would bring their children to the tunnel, then hold their breath to avoid contracting the disease themselves.

Tapping the Roof While Passing Yellow Lights

Many people tap their sun visor or the roof of their car as they drive through a yellow light. It’s believed to provide the driver with a bit of good luck – either in the future or to just get through the intersection safely.

Lifting Your Feet

Another common car superstition involves lifting your feet off the floor when driving over railroad tracks. Depending on who you ask, keeping your feet on the ground could cause you to lose your sweetheart, never get married, die young or bring about a spell of bad luck. Just like with holding your breath, do not attempt this if you are driving. Taking your foot off the gas/brake is extremely dangerous and could easily cause a crash.

Scratching a New Car

Some drivers will make small scratches on their brand-new car under the misguided belief that new cars are more likely to be involved in crashes. Once scratched, the vehicle has gotten its first bit of damage out of the way and it’s minor. Now the car is “used” and safer to drive.

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Car Phobias

With more than 5.2 million crashes and nearly 40,000 fatalities occurring on U.S. roadways in 2020, there’s reason to be at least somewhat fearful of driving or riding in an automobile. And there’s certainly enough to form a phobia, especially if you’ve experienced car-related trauma before.

But those suffering from car-related phobias experience more than common nervousness when they’re in a vehicle. Phobias cause an extreme fear response even when there is no imminent danger. Just the thought of the fear alone can trigger severe anxiety. Phobias can be so intense that individuals may avoid the object or situation causing them distress entirely.

Here are some of the most common car phobias:

Motorphobia: The fear of cars.

Amaxophobia: The fear of riding in a vehicle, either as a driver or passenger.

Vehophobia: The fear of driving a car.

Gephyrophobia: The fear of driving over bridges.

Dystychiphobia: The fear of accidents.

Hodophobia: The fear of traveling.

Autoplenophobia: The fear of car washes.

Claustrophobia: The fear of confined places.

Do you have any car superstitions? Tell us about them in the comments below.


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One Thought on “13 Car Superstitions and Phobias

  1. I’m not afraid of driving a car. In fact, I drive quite a bit, for both long and short distances. Being a passenger, however, often gets me kind of nervous, even with friends, because I never know what they’re going to do, and I don’t have any control over what may happen.

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