Backseat Driver
February 8, 2005 6:07 PM   Subscribe

I've been driving a car for about a decade now, and it's suddenly occurred to me that I'm now completely paranoid about anyone else driving me somewhere. I'm constantly checking the mirrors while they drive, and getting stressed because I think they should be braking sooner or driving in a different lane. It even happens when I catch a bus. Has anyone else experienced this? How did you get over it?
posted by Jimbob to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes! This totally happens to me now! Wow, so glad to hear I'm not alone. I figured it was just the "loss of control" feeling. At first I tried to help the driver by pointing out things I noticed, like cars that were getting close, snow on the road, etc. But then I realized that I was turning into a backseat driver. No one likes that. But I haven't found anything else that helps.
posted by nprigoda at 6:46 PM on February 8, 2005

I used to do this constantly and I couldn't make it go away. I started doing something a little strange though, and it worked. When I would get worried as a passenger I would talk to myself about how I needed to trust the universe and trust that whatever happened to me would be for the best, that I would make it through and I would be okay.

It's kind of a meditative state and I've subsequently found that it helps me in all kinds of high anxiety situations. I'll notice myself freaking out, and then I'll shift into that place of slowing myself down while the world continues at its hectic pace. Kind of like being a stone in a river & all that jazz. It's fun to watch the world go by if you can get to that place.

It's really not as ethereal as it sounds, it's mostly a matter of accepting things as they are.
posted by spaghetti at 6:53 PM on February 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

This happens all the time to me. When my 17-year-old son is driving.
posted by Doohickie at 6:59 PM on February 8, 2005

I had the same problem. I just had to keep riding and riding until I got over it. It also helped that my fiancee would yell at me for acting stressed and for pointing things out to her when she was driving. I didn't like getting yelled at.
posted by Arch Stanton at 7:01 PM on February 8, 2005

Pretend that your friend, despite their failings in all other respects, is actually a driving genius and Knows Things you don't. Then watch respectfully and try to learn. (N.B. this is more likely to be actually true with a bus driver, someone who has likely spent years practicing this single skill.)

I'm just making shit up here, I'm a NYC boy and don't know how to drive. God willing, may it be ever thus.
posted by Aknaton at 7:14 PM on February 8, 2005

I know the feeling. I repress the urge to take over driving from the passenger seat.

However, I do always check right for traffic at intersections and announce when it's clear to go. I appreciate it when a passenger does that for me.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:22 PM on February 8, 2005

I close my eyes. It's the only way I can _not_ react faster than the driver to pretty much everything. Somehow, not seeing impending death coming is much more relaxing.
posted by coriolisdave at 7:29 PM on February 8, 2005

Happens to me, too. My former boss and I are both safe-but-fast drivers (big open road, empty curves? open it up. lots of traffic? no) and I know we both evaluate risk about the same way, but we were both always on edge when the other one was driving. It's about control, but it's not reaction time, I don't think. The driver and passenger react at the same time, but the passenger immediately knows that he's reacted, and he can't tell that the driver has reacted until the driver does something noticeable (covering the brakes and checking the next lane over is hard to notice, so you think the driver hasn't reacted until he actually changes lanes or brakes.)
posted by mendel at 7:39 PM on February 8, 2005

Best answer: Sit in the back seat behind the driver when you can. It's better to have less visibility, both of the road and the brake pedal. Have something else to look at, like a newspaper or Game Boy, and pretend you're on the subway. If you're getting carsick or extra jumpy, look out the rear window for a while instead of the front and sides.
posted by obloquy at 7:47 PM on February 8, 2005

Now that I've moved to NYC and always take the subway, I hate being driven by other people. It seems a lot scarier. Once I was in a cab coming from Newark, and I was getting nervous in the cab, because I felt like the guy was driving like crazy, but I decided, ok, I need to calm down, I'll just close my eyes and breathe. And then the cabbie lost control of the cab and crashed into the guard rail of the bridge. Uh, and then I got home safely. See, relaxation methods work!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:53 PM on February 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

I like to do things I can't do when I'm actually driving, such as looking at the driver (if I'm having a conversation with them) or out the window at the scenery (if there is any). Or read a book.
posted by kindall at 8:55 PM on February 8, 2005

Same feelings here. I explain any twitchiness while approaching red lights with "Hey! The breaks don't work on this side."
posted by fatllama at 8:58 PM on February 8, 2005

I just remind myself that the driver doesn't want to die in a car crash any more than I do. It also helps to have something to concentrate on besides the mirrors and my imaginary brake pedal.
posted by Buzz at 9:08 PM on February 8, 2005

It really depends who's driving you. For instance, when my girlfriend is driving, I never have a moment of peace and am constantly surveying the traffic situation so I can warn her when I see that the car ahead of us has decided to suddenly stop and since we were following too closely we are now careening right through the windshield and over the freeway bloodied and battered even though I TOLD HER to back off OHMYGOD.....

Yet this also seems to happen when I ride with friends of mine who are better drivers, and for them I simply either close my eyes (if the situation permits), or look out the window... basically anywhere that I can't look at what's going on with the road. Like mendel said, it's really just because you irrationally think the driver isn't reacting as fast as you are because you can't read his mind/see his feet. So try to chill out and remember that if you were driving you'd expect him/her to feel comfortable.
posted by rooftop secrets at 9:22 PM on February 8, 2005

I'm so glad to read that so many others feel this way. I thought it was just me. I find that focusing on something other than the road ahead helps. I look out the side window and watch the scenery go by or try to focus on conversation (or, on preview, almost exactly what kindall said).

The only person I don't do this with is my father. I guess I still feel safe when in his care.
posted by LeeJay at 9:53 PM on February 8, 2005

I'm not a fan of my mom's breaking, oddly. I mean I've driven as a passenger with this woman my entire childhood, and after a few years on my own I start freaking out as she's pulling up behind someone. My sister is the same way.

Havn't really had a problem with anyone else driving. I wear my seatbelt and figure cars are pretty safe, these days.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 PM on February 8, 2005

Dude, relax. Realize that it isn't a byproduct of the driver's bad driving, but of you losing the power of controlling the vehicle. Imagine how an ex President feels.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 10:17 PM on February 8, 2005

It's not just you. The only time I give up the keys is when I've had too much to drink, and then only to one person. If I can't do that, I'll cab it, or just walk.

I have a problem with *everyone's* driving, and I intensely dislike long car trips myself. Stressful and fuck-all boring at the same time.

As to how you got that way: maybe you drive, or did drive, an older car without antilock brakes. People who drive cars with them (especially those who learned on them) tailgate waaaay too much for me. Airbags might factor in, too; when I learned to drive they weren't around, so fucking up and ramming into someone was that much more serious.

On Preview: If the ex-President isn't in the car with me, why should I care how he feels? ;)
posted by trondant at 10:25 PM on February 8, 2005

I used to have no problem being driven around by others, until I was in a really bad wreck my freshmen year of college. After that I was paranoid enough driving myself around, let alone being driven.

It's been 8 years since that wreck and I'm still a little jittery when other people drive, but it's not nearly as bad as it used to be. I think the lack of subsequent car accidents has really helped out there.
posted by m0nm0n at 10:51 PM on February 8, 2005

Well, I am terribly disappointed! I hoped someone would post a cure for my husband.
posted by Cranberry at 11:02 PM on February 8, 2005

Most people *are* crap drivers. You and I are probably included. You are right to be worried. Just remember, if you keep interrupting them, you make it worse.
posted by krisjohn at 11:06 PM on February 8, 2005

When my parents drive, I can drift off to sleep very easily. It's a joke between my siblings to see if they can guess how long it will take me to knock out.

When I drive with other people, I get antsy. I've discovered that sitting in the back seat does work much better, and giving up the suicide seat to someone else. I also determined that if more people are in the car, there's more of a distraction. The really strange thing for me is driving with someone else and getting to look out the window of places that you pass by often and never notice yourself.
posted by Derek at 3:08 AM on February 9, 2005

do you need to travel by car so much? i have this problem when we go to visit my parents and so we try to use public transport instead (they live 3 mins walk from the train station, so it's not hard).
(and at home we live in a city with excellent public transport and chose where to live appropriately, so we don't need a car.)
posted by andrew cooke at 4:18 AM on February 9, 2005

I have the same problem. I always thought my "passenger issues" could be traced back to an accident I was in in high school (although I was driving in that one, go figure). My wife gets (rightfully) upset when I'm cringing in the passenger seat, so I have been actively trying to stop it.
posted by sluggo at 6:35 AM on February 9, 2005

Best answer: Yeah, I experience a bit of this, myself. My (not one hundred precent effective) solution is to combat the fear with rationality. Generally, I know the person in question's driving record and I can tell myself things like "He drives every day. He's only had two accidents in the past five years. And those were fender benders. This is concrete evidence that he drives safely. The odds are overwhelmingly against him getting into a wreck today."
posted by Clay201 at 7:05 AM on February 9, 2005

I have it too and deliberately stare out the side window instead of straight ahead. It works pretty well.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:17 AM on February 9, 2005

You guys don't know how comforting it is to hear that this is such a common phenomenon. I had near-debilitating passenger phobia for a few years. As I mentioned in a thread a few weeks ago, I found relief in the oddest and most unexpected of places: hypnosis.

I didn't go to the hypnotist for my phobia; the visit was part of an article I was researching, and I mentioned my fears in a sort of off-hand way during our conversation before the session. He addressed it while I was "under" (which I never really was -- just very relaxed), and it wasn't until a few days later that I realized -- holy shit! -- I'm not scared any more.

I don't remember exactly what the hypnotist said, but the gist of it was similar to spaghetti's advice (and everyone else's, really) to just relax and be okay with the situation. I guess my fear had burrowed in so deep I just needed a little extra help to extricate it. :)

Good luck -- I hope you find something that works for you!
posted by damn yankee at 1:11 PM on February 9, 2005

« Older Trackballs for left-handed?   |   Wireless Networking Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.