Pack the snacks, fill the tank, grab your friends, and make sure they leave you alone. Okay, so we’re kind of kidding about that last part…but not really. When driving long distances it can be especially tough to focus on the road with a car full of people. In fact, one study found that backseat drivers cause 1 in 7 accidents.
While it’s fun to hit the road with friends, you may be doing things as a passenger that could be distracting the captain of your four-door ship. According to AAA Foundation, there are three types of driver distractions that you should be aware of, whether driving or riding: visual (eyes off the road), manual (hands off the wheel), and cognitive (mind off the task). As a passenger, you could be contributing to driver distraction. Check out some common scenarios below and see how you can help the person behind the wheel drive a little safer! (Hint: Do your best to not be one of the folks below!)
The Direction Giver: Let the GPS do its job.
This is the original “Backseat Driver” and the source of a cognitive distraction. Let’s say you’re taking a quiet, pleasant drive to a place you already know how to get to, when suddenly you hear, “WAIT, where are you going?!” from the backseat. Ah, if that’s not distracting then we don’t know what is!
When you’re a passenger, keep the “I’ve never gone this way before,” and “I think there’s a much quicker way,” statements to yourself. Odds are, your driver knows what they’re doing, especially if their GPS is on. If they ask for help, feel free to jump on in, but until then simply enjoy the ride.
The Snackster: Bite-sized doesn’t = safe.
Eating is a visual and manual distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that eating and driving increases the likelihood of crashes by 80 percent. What’s more, 65 percent of near-miss crashes are caused by distracted drivers who are eating and drinking while driving.
Even though your favorite snacks now come in convenient, cupholder-sized packages, keep the sharing to a minimum until you reach your destination. Tossing snacks into the driver’s mouth or attempting to feed them from the passenger’s seat is a not-so-tasty recipe for distracted driving. If you’re worried about their steaming hot, bacon cheddar burger getting cold, try setting the fast food package on a seat warmer!
The Bad DJ: Read the mood & turn it down.
While metal headbangers may be your choice for the gym, they may not be your driver’s choice for the ride ahead. Be conscious of the type and volume of music playing, especially if you’re taking a night drive or stuck in a stressful traffic jam. A study of novice drivers conducted by scientists at Ben-Gurion University of Negev found that the type and volume of music a driver listens to has a significant impact on the driver’s ability to safely navigate. When drivers listened to music of their own choice at a high volume, they were much more distracted than when listening to different music at a low volume. So what can you do as a passenger?
If you’re going to play music, keep it low and don’t encourage the driver to fiddle with the radio or music controls. Asking them to do so could result in a triple threat distraction that’s visual (they have to look away from the road), manual (touch the radio controls), AND cognitive (interpret what you’re asking).
The Wannabe Athlete: Exercise outside the car.
Maybe you’re hyped up after a game, or maybe you just learned a new frisbee throw. Either way, throwing or juggling anything, even for play, doesn’t sound like a good time when you’re in the driver’s seat. Even if you’re just tossing something around in the backseat, it may cause the person driving to feel anxious. When a driver reaches into the backseat or onto the floorboards they could lose control of the vehicle, says AAA. With that in mind, save the game of catch for the park! Better yet, leave the sports gear in the trunk!
The Photographer: Not every moment is Instagram-worthy.
“OMG, did you see that sign? Slow down so I can snap it!” This kind of request isn’t the best way to help your driver stay focused on the road. Though you’re only a few fans away from sure Snapchat fame, save your camera time for subjects that can be shot without distracting the driver of a two ton machine. There’s no harm in taking pictures, just don’t let your hobby affect your car ride. Hey, maybe it’s a good time to try that blur effect you’ve been learning! Shouting, gesturing, or jumping out of your seat could surprise your driver, causing them to slam on the breaks or jolt the wheel. Remember, you’re in the vehicle too, and you want your Snapchat story to have a happy ending.
While it may be easy to brush off these silly caricatures, the truth is, these backseat drivers exist. Keep learning by watching this video, 3 Not-So-Smart Driving Ideas (And 1 Good One), and set an example for other passengers next time you’re in the backseat. And to add to your peace of mind, whether you’re driving or riding, make sure you’ve got affordable car insurance. Need a quote? Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732) or visit your local store to talk to an agent today!
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