Where Did the Term ‘Backseat Driver’ Come From?

Hannah DeWitt
· 3 min read
Everyone has their annoying driving habits or quirks, but some of the most annoying ones can come from those in the backseat. “Backseat drivers,” passengers who give unwarranted
driving tips
, irk just about everyone. Who likes to be told what to do?
The history of the phrase, though, might go back farther than you think. Here’s more background on it and some helpful advice on how to quiet your backseat driver.
Backseat driving can get annoying quick.

When did the phrase ‘backseat driver’ come about?

According to
The Phrase Finder
, the saying as it’s known today became popular in the U.S. in the early 1900s with the rise of vehicle ownership. It was likely commonly used in the U.K. by the 1930s.
However, the term existed before then with a more literal meaning, referring to people driving vehicles from the back. At that point, it was a description rather than an insult. The oldest reference to “backseat driver” Phrase Finder could find was in a newspaper from 1914.
One such vehicle that could be driven from the back was a fire truck. The length of the vehicle required steering from the front and rear so that it could navigate city streets, causing people to call the rear drivers “backseat drivers.”
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How to quiet a backseat driver

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Quieting a backseat driver might require some insight on why they feel the need to speak up while someone else drives. If they do it out of fear,
driving as safely as possible
is a good place to start, according to
WTOV
. If you drive cautiously and safely, you give them less to talk about.
Others might backseat drive because they like having control and they think they are helping you. In this case, giving them a task, like navigation, music, or finding waypoints to stop at will give them control and might distract them from the task of driving. Other distractions that might work for backseat drivers are podcasts and audiobooks, which require passengers to pay attention and be mostly quiet.
If the backseat drivers finally get to be too much, it might be good to remind them that their “advice” is distracting and therefore dangerous. For the most part, a backseat driver’s focus is safety, so telling them that they are taking your attention from the road could convince them to tone it down.

The risks of backseat driving

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WTOV also said that, in a recent survey, 14% of the 1,000 motorists surveyed admitted to being in an accident or having a near miss because of distractions caused by backseat driving.
51% of them also admitted to being angered and annoyed by backseat drivers. Whether it comes out of a desire to help or a belief that you know best, backseat driving is a dangerous and distracting habit that can lead to crashes.
Whatever the cause, car crashes are common and can be devastating to a person’s finances and health, which is why it’s important to have good car insurance. That’s where
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