I am known to get a little white-knuckled and superstitious when driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The rails are low, the shore seems distant, and it’s easy to imagine my car careening off the side and landing with a splash in the waters below. But the idea of paying someone $25 to shuttle me across — as several thousand people apparently do every year, according to the New York Times — never once occurred to me.

At $25 a pop and 5,800 trips per year, the Kent Island Express racks up $150,000 a year thanks to gephyrophobia, or fear of bridges. Factor in the two other companies that provide the same service, and it seems that bridge-crossing is an unexpectedly thriving industry.

You could argue that Alex Robinson, Kent Island Express’s operator, is profiting from people’s phobias — but he says he also offers bridge-driving coaching for those who hope to overcome their terror. It doesn’t usually work, though. “Fear is there for a reason,” Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Una McCann told the Times. “It’s harm avoidance. It’s not natural to be driving at great speeds high above water.”

3 replies on “Are You Afraid of the Bay Bridge?”

  1. It isn’t nearly as high, but the ponchartrain causeway above New Orleans has to be another one that gets this type of business. Its around 20 miles long, and for a while there it feels like you’re just driving on top of the lake. I didn’t enjoy that trip much.

  2. This is also a great service for bikers! My husband biked from Baltimore to Assateague and back last summer and used Kent Island Express both ways to get over the Bay.

  3. In 1970 I had a panic attack while driving across the Bridge with my 2 small children and have been unable to drive across ever since. My grandfather was also gephyrophobic. Can it be genetic? The State Police used to offer this ‘ shuttle service’ for free. Fortunately, this is the only bridge I’ve encountered that fills me with fear, and I can usually rely on my husband to drive me over. If he’s not with me, I have paid the $25 and/or also driven around the long way! Harm avoidance? You betcha!

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