“I’m Driving My Car and I Can’t Slow Down.” A Dream Interpretation.

Dear Satya:

portland-psychotherapy-dreams-byockQ: I have had several dreams in which I am driving and I can’t slow down. Sometimes I run red lights, sometimes I am driving and I cannot figure out how to use the brakes. I am usually very scared but I somehow manage to stay in control of the car.

A: Unfortunately, this is a very common dream theme, but it’s one that is indicative of a cultural illness of manic activity. The message from the dream is clear: you need to slow down. You may even think that you have already slowed things down in your life. If so, the dream is saying “try harder.” This is your own unconscious giving you a very clear message. Listen.

Cars in dreams are symbolic of you. They’re like turtles’ shells, the additional homes or bodies in which we travel through the world. If you have dreams of driving, pay attention. Pay attention to the way in which you are driving, or if you are driving at all. If you’re not driving, who is? Who’s in the driver’s seat? This is very important information. You can develop great insight into what aspect of you is actually in control of your life, or perhaps it’s another person in your life altogether.

Your dreams are indicating that you are holding onto control by the skin of your teeth. You may think “but I’m killing it right now! I’m totally in control of things!” If that is the case, this dream is clearly indicating another layer of what is going on, that perhaps you’re riding on a degree of mania, feeling on top of it while actually beginning to crash (pun intended). While you are safe for now, you don’t really know how you’re managing it. After a while, you’ll start to pay the price if you don’t heed the advice of your dream.

Dreams are often the first line of defense in getting us into alignment with our inner selves. If we’re checked-out or disengaged from our path in life, our dreams will reflect that. Sometimes, they’ll turn into nightmares to get our attention. But if our awareness gets too fragmented, we can fall into physical danger too: we forget to look both ways when crossing the street, we stop paying close attention when driving our car in waking life, maybe we just get angry with people in our lives when we needn’t be. It’s also possible that following these dreams, an injury or illness may appear to slow us down by force. This may again be what the dream is reflecting directly, with the car representing the body. Take a good look at your immune system, your sleep habits, your eating, and your physical well-being.

Your dreamworld is your ally. If your dream is telling you to slow down, it’s not demanding something you cannot accomplish. Find a way to spend more time alone, to breath, to stay aware of the moment-to-moment details in your life. Bringing yourself into the moment of whatever it is you may be doing will significantly slow down your internal clock and pace. You’ll be the better for it.

Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!

Satya is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their 20s and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com


  1. Manoj Pandey

    I also dream this very often that, I’m reversing the car and although I’m breaking but I’m not able to stop due to the speed. Thanks for clearing some doubts and letting me know that there are many people like me who dream like this.

  2. Jessie

    I had a dream that I was driving a big pick up truck and I was driving fast and out of control because i wasn’t strong enough to press the brakes hard enough to slow down and I couldn’t see clearly out of the windshield. At times I felt like I just closed my eyes because I couldn’t see anyway.

  3. Don

    I continually have a dream about driving, but I can’t seem to steer, or lack the energy to correct the steering. I always seem to be heading for a body of water- a lake, river, or creek. I always wake up at the last moment. I take it that this likely means that I feel I’m losing control of my direction in life.

  4. katiewithab

    I just woke up from a dream where I was in my car and it stopped working I couldn’t slow down. I was trying to get to my boyfriend’s house. The Windows became very tinted I couldn’t see very well. The car wasn’t even on but it was still moving down the highway. I ended up in the back driver seat but I was still driving, barely in control but I was still moving the car somehow. I couldn’t roll the windows down to try and get help or anything.

  5. Andrew

    So I just had a dream, was with an old best friend I had in high school. We were at a clinic, like a dentist office kind of but we were waiting to see someone. (A person I met at a business training a few weeks ago). All is well and I have my dog with me, finally meet the guy. And it goes left and my old best friend starts to get in a fight with other people in the clinic. Never comes to blows but a big scuffle. So we leave and acting all macho and then run to my car. So someone is parked in front of me in the parking lot but somehow I’m in front of them. Would of been impossible without hitting the other car, and I remember asking my friend if I had hit the car. My car is fine so I try to turn but have trouble turning on a one way. Finally get on the street but have trouble getting into the right lane. Eventually I get to a high way, and at first I’m driving fine, but then I’m speeding uncontrollable. I can’t slow down and the breaks stop working. I avoid contact with cars all up to this point. So when I try to slow down, the car flies into the air and I land it the first time. Then I pick up speed again and fly into the air again. And this time I wake up before crashing or seeing if I land again. Sorry if this is rambling, 3AM and trying to remember in bed. Felt like my lower body was very warm when I woke up

  6. Cindy

    Dreamt my car was hurtling down a never ending hill at top speed and though I pressed brake to the floor, I couldn’t slow down. I crashed thru a concrete pillar easily and finally crashed into a mountain and fell into a cave. Perhaps I need to evaluate my stress level?

  7. Tom Kay

    I am driving on an curved freeway ramp I turn the wheel the car continues straight and bounces off a metal guardrail piece and eventually get back on the road. I am alarmed that I have damaged a rental car

  8. Jon moss

    I’ve had the same dream twice recently, I’m driving my truck and it speeds up. Last night my reaction in the dream was to throw it in neutral and turn the key off, I then woke up. I was scared.

  9. Robin

    I have dreams where there is no driver. I can’t reach the front seat. The car is careening out of control. I try to reach for the wheel. I am scared. The car is going too fast. Sometimes I am lucky and the car not damaged. Sometimes the car rams into a hill and stalls.

    • brian

      same here. I used to dream that i was in the driver seat but couldn’t reach the brakes , nu when i’m having this dream i’m sitting in the back and can’t even reach the front seat …the plot thickens

      • Jan

        Last night I had a dream that I was driving a small sports car that belonged to a man I’d just met. He was in the passenger seat. The car was a manual transmission which I was comfortable driving. Everything was fine until I had to slow down. The floor mat was bunched around my foot making it impossible to see, let alone engage, the brake, and I panicked. I could see the clutch and wished it were the brake. I was concerned about crashing and destroying a car that didn’t belong to me. Suddenly the car felt incredibly cramped, so cramped that I could barely move to steer or continue struggling to find the brake. The man in the passenger seat was surprisingly calm and tried to shine the car visor light on the brake so I could find it, but the light was too dim. I started yelling and became agitated that he thought the stupid visor would help. The car was careening out of control, then I woke up terrified.

  10. corrina bradshaw

    when i was 18 i had a dream of driving a red car very fast up hill and the down winding roads but at the top of the hill i forget how to drive! i press all the peddles and the car gets faster. i stick to the roads but i cant remember what to do..i pass ppl and police and fake the driving and they carry on there way. i wake up in panic attack mode. im 40 now and its returned the exact same dream. but my life is nothing like it was at 18.

  11. Anonymous

    I am driving alone. The brakes work poorly. I have to press down very very hard and they barely work. I become confused and frustrated as to why the brakes aren’t working properly. I finally stop before hitting anything. Very disturbing dream that recurs.

  12. burnside2020

    I dreamt that I was driving my car alone at speed on a familiar windy road in the dark holding on to try and keep control. Guess I now know to slow down and think about my future instead of forcing it to happen, so glad I got answers to my vivid dream, with thanks

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