Backseat drivers are those passengers in a vehicle who don’t have control of the steering wheel but who give excessive and unwanted advice to the driver.
For instance, a girlfriend may repeatedly ask her boyfriend to slow down and stop tailgating. Instead of heeding her suggestions, he continues barreling down the highway, fuming at her interference.
A 2013 poll of 500 drivers older than 18 years of age, commissioned by www.insurance.com, found that spouses were the worst — and most annoying — offenders. Thirty-four percent of women rated their husbands as prime culprits; next came their mothers (18 percent) and friends (15 percent). Men were even more aggravated by their wives’ unsolicited advice: 40 percent gave them top billing, followed by mothers (17 percent) and friends (15 percent).
While backseat driving may seem trivial, in reality, it’s serious business. The “Driver Distraction Study,” commissioned by Esure car insurance and reported by DailyMail.com, showed 51 percent of drivers had gotten angry because of backseat drivers; 40 percent said they’d become anxious. Thirty-one percent said they would rather drive alone due to the distraction of passengers. One-quarter thought they were more likely to get into an accident when driving with others.
What drivers and passengers fail to realize is that backseat driving is a power struggle to see who’s in charge of the car. When drivers get behind the wheel, they assume control. Passengers place their safety and fate in the drivers’ hands. Many folks are uncomfortable with that arrangement and attempt to reclaim power by making suggestions, being critical or giving directions.
Of course, sometimes an extra set of eyes or ears is appreciated. A well-timed “How about I watch for our turn so you can focus on the traffic?” is nonthreatening and makes good use of everyone’s abilities.
There are other times when you deem the driver unfit because of impaired mental capacity or drug or alcohol use. You may attempt to take the keys, drive yourself, call a cab or get a ride from someone else. In those instances, you have the right not to get into the car.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.
How not to be a backseat driver
▪ Practice relaxing. Count 10 slow, deep breaths. Allow your hands to rest loosely in your lap. Shrug your shoulders. Repeat the process as often as needed.
▪ Don’t look at the road. Following the driver’s actions sucks you into the drama. Do all you can to divert your gaze.
▪ Listen to a podcast. Make good use of your electronics by catching up on shows you’ve missed.
▪ Sleep. Curl up with a pillow and grab a nap. The trip will be over before you know it; you will arrive refreshed.
▪ Find a job for yourself. Volunteer to navigate, seek out interesting rest stops or entertain fussy grandchildren.
▪ Be a pleasant conversationalist. Engage the driver in supportive dialogue. You’ll help them stay alert. Plus, the intimacy of car travel sets the stage for great talks.