How to Handle a Backseat Driver

Dealing with a backseat driver means talking about the problem, distracting the passenger, changing driving habits, and not driving that passenger.
Written by Nicholas Wilson
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Backseat driving occurs when one of your passengers offers unwanted driving advice while the vehicle is moving. Not only is it annoying, but it is positively dangerous to you and your passengers.
It’s not always easy to prevent backseat driving before it starts or respond to it once it starts. For the sake of your safety and sanity, here are some tips from
on how to deal with a backseat driver.
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Talk about the problem

Depending on who the culprit is, you can hopefully make your feelings known, and resolving the problem will be as simple as that.
You can take a variety of tactics here. If it's your spouse, it may be as simple as telling them that you don’t like their habit of backseat driving, which may correct the problem. If the culprit is an acquaintance or colleague, you may have to take a more indirect route, especially if it is someone who is more sensitive to criticism.
With this in mind, take a delicate approach and broach the subject in a way that will be constructive.
Be plain about the subject by referencing the fact that the habit is a dangerous one. By appealing to safety rather than, say, how annoying the practice is, you’ll probably have a bit more success.

Come up with a distraction for backseat drivers

If you want your passenger to stop backseat driving, try distracting them with something else (but don't distract yourself, of course!).
This could be as simple as conversation. If you do not generally talk with your passengers, they have plenty of opportunity to criticize your driving. But if you can coax a passenger who might ordinarily criticize your driving into telling a gripping story, for example—their mind will no longer be on the road.
Maybe you could have another passenger engage the backseat driver in conversation or in some other way as well. This will keep your focus on driving and the backseat driver distracted.
Finally, you could come up with a shared activity or
road trip game
that will draw the backseat driver’s attention away from the road and your driving. Be careful, however, since you don’t want to draw your attention away either.
You might use this distraction method in addition to a heart-to-heart talk. For many people, the habit is hard to break, so this could be supplementary.

Be a better driver

While this does not seem like the standard solution, the real problem could be that you are an erratic driver.
This does not mean that backseat driving is ok, but only that you take steps to ensure that you are not giving your passengers reasons to exclaim or complain. Some common driving mistakes could be hard braking, tailgating, speeding, jerky driving, and others.
Staying on top of all the written and unwritten rules of driving is a great way to
become a better driver
and reduce backseat driving. You can even think of the persistent presence of a backseat commentator as an occasion to improve your driving skills.

Avoid riding with the backseat driver altogether

This is a tragic solution to the problem, but it could be necessary if the backseat driver refuses to stop.
If you have tried every other measure, you may need to let the person know you aren’t comfortable driving with them in the car.
In this event, you could either drive separately or have them drive you. Neither of those options may be particularly attractive, but the unfortunate reality is that you really cannot sacrifice your safety, and hopefully the backseat driver will recognize this.
Dealing with a backseat driver is certainly not easy and can be straining on relationships of every sort. Hopefully, though, you can find a common way to keep your passengers from distracting you with their criticism and increase the overall safety of everyone in the vehicle.
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