At Anderson Behel, we recently saw a news story on ABC in Santa Clara, CA about a community action group that is asking passengers to alleviate distracted driving amongst drivers in their town by taking their cell phones and watching their backs. Some folks are calling it back seat driving, but many others are applauding the concept that passengers can prevent serious accidents and fatalities by putting passengers to work.
Be an Involved Passenger
When you're the passenger in any vehicle, it's always extremely wise to speak up if your driver is distracted in any way, shape, or form. Essentially, you put your life in the driver's hands when you enter a car, so don't hesitate to say something if someone is driving in an unsafe way, thereby endangering your safety. Don't let them text or use their cell phone and never let them drink and drive.
Don't Be Problematic
Based on statistics compiled by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a wide range of passengers cause many distractions, with children being 4 times more distracting than adults and babies being 8 times more distracting. Never distract the driver’s attention when they are operating a vehicle. Every effort you make to eliminate distractions is a vote in favor of road safety.
Be a Good Wing Person
A 2004 study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah discovered that passengers can be a genuine asset when compared to things like cell phone usage and other potential distractions. These researchers noted that passenger conversations differ from cell phone conversations because the surrounding traffic becomes a topic of the conversation, thereby assisting drivers and passengers to share situation awareness, and mitigating the potential effects of conversation on driving.
How does this work without looking like a meddling backseat driver? For example, you can handle the maps or answer the cell phone if necessary. This way, you can alleviate the serious temptation for the driver to try to manage those tasks while operating the vehicle. If you're in the front passenger seat, you are in a position to control ventilation or adjust the background music so that the driver can concentrate fully on the roadway. You can also pay attention to the various signs and landmarks if you are traveling in an area that you're not familiar with. Work to be an asset to the driver, rather than just another annoying distraction.
Speak Up and Be Heard
No one ever wants to be confrontational, and it’s especially difficult to do so if the driver is your close friend. But if you are a passenger and the driver continually engages in unsafe behavior, you have an obligation to speak up. You have a duty to defend the well-being of everyone in the vehicle, and also to protect other travelers on the road.
So, be a good passenger and play a helpful role and you will travel safely to your next destination in one piece as a result. Every good pilot needs a solid co-pilot on their side, so be that co-pilot and be safe and sensible on the road.
Sources: AAA, NHTSA, and AARP