Tunnel anxiety

You might never have heard of it, but some people (very few – 1-3% of the population) suffer from “tunnel phobia”. Tunnel anxiety/”tunnel phobia” is a broad popular term for a feeling that varies from real phobia (e.g. irrational fears that can get motorists to avoid routes that include tunnels) to various degrees of discomfort by passing through a tunnel.

Also, a relatively large proportion of motorists feel uneasy and slightly insecure when driving in tunnels – especially long tunnels and tunnels under water. To cure this problem we have found it is important to design the tunnel according to certain principles (as seen on the picture below of the future Fehmarn tunnel).

It should be mentioned that high bridges also can cause strong anxieties for several car users. This probia has an official name and is called Gephyrophobia.

Some drivers also mistakenly believe that it is dangerous to drive in tunnels, even though it is factually safer to drive in the tunnel than outside. This is because there is no oncoming traffic, and no strong winds, snow, etc. Moreover, the long tunnels are always under constant surveillance.

The reason for a possible feeling of discomfort can probably be compared to the feeling of insecurity that many people might experience in parking basements, which are poorly maintained, dirty and with dark corners.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Virginia, USA, opened in 1964 pictured above – for comparison.

It is thus important to implement a design that eliminates the above discomforts, for instance by providing:

  • Light and open appearance
  • Satisfactory air quality
  • High level of safety
  • Ability to maintain good standard of cleanliness
  • Remediation of monotony with art or creative lighting
  • Distance Markers so you know how far you are on your journey
  • Proper design of portal sites (entrances and exits)
  • LED roadway lights
  • High level of information in form of variable signs and loudspeakers
  • Low noise level

The above picture portrays the creative lightning in the future Fehmarn tunnel.
The focus we have kept on maintaining and implementing an innovative design in the tunnel makes me confident that any “tunnel phobia” that motorists might have, will be close to nonexistent when entering the Fehmarn tunnel.

What are your opinions on this and do you know anyone who suffers from “tunnel phobia”?

3 Replies to “Tunnel anxiety”

  1. Susanne, first i must say i ran into your tunnel project accidentally by googling safety working in tunnels for my husband who works for the D.C. Metro in Washington DC. i am amazed at your awesome, challenging project & cannot even begin to fathom the depth, complexity and knowledge one must have to lead such a fantastic project. it does appear your are quite qualified and truly concerned regarding the public’s opinions as your blog requested all types of comments for response – even ideas & criticisms! That tells me you feel very secure with your project. i have not a clue of advice for your project, but can tell you i do get somewhat nervous in tunnels. i like the visuals presented for the tunnel walls – the birds make one feel they could be driving beside them as they flew along beside your vehicle, outdoors of course! would also be nice if the radio could work while driving thru….make it less glaringly obvious you are under how many feet of water for how long?? good luck and much success on this wonderful project, i will try to follow the posts

  2. I cannot believe this is such a small problem. No way! Long tunnels scare the hell out of me. Why shouldn’t they??? If they are “one way” then in the event of a major accident you are stuck in them. Ahh , awful! No natural light, no way out, except forward. And if fire is involved? I must confess I’m surprised more people don’t fear long (over 5 kl.) driving tunnels. False sense of securiy perhaps?? I recently drove the Mount ikoma tunnel in Japan which connects Osaka to Nara. It is two lanes one way (ie two separate tunnels). There was an accident in the tunnel and everything stopped. I suddenly felt very vulnerable, as the tunnel was full of cars and there was no escape (other than finding a stairwell). I don’t wish to return there. I would be interested to know other’s experiences.

  3. I have tunnel phobia and it is a major problem for me. Every time I enter a tunnel I feel trapped and fear that I cannot escape. Dark tunnels with no emergency lanes are the worse types. It would help significantly if tunnels were made to feel open, light & bright (but not that fluoro type lighting (bluish color). It takes me twice as long to get to places now because I avoid tunnels.

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