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In a ideal world, a driver would enjoy the privilege of not having to drive by committee, or defend his or her decision making process to other passengers in the car. In the real world, however, many a driver has had the misfortune of dealing with a very vocal and hypercritical passenger known as a back seat driver. A back seat driver spends much of the trip in an unofficial and unwarranted co-pilot role, shouting directions to the driver or issuing superfluous warnings about potential or imagined road hazards.
A back seat driver is quite often a skilled or experienced driver who feels unfairly relegated to the thankless role of passenger. To compensate for this perceived slight, a back seat driver will take it upon himself or herself to criticize the skills of the actual driver while he or she is actually driving. This behavior is not only annoying to other occupants, it can be downright hazardous if the driver becomes too distracted or emotional.
One reason a person may become a vocal back seat driver is a lack of trust. He or she may feel the designated driver is too young, inexperienced, unfocused or unskilled for the driving task at hand. A nervous parent may become a back seat driver whenever an adolescent son or daughter is behind the wheel, for example. A husband may feel compelled to issue warnings and criticisms whenever his less experienced spouse drives into town.
Another reason some people become back seat drivers is a perceived loss of control. There are certain drivers who simply cannot hand over control of a vehicle to an unknown or unproven entity. Perhaps a driver has had a bad experience as a passenger in the past, or else he or she has always been the family's designated driver and is not comfortable putting his or her life in the hands of others. This anxiety over another driver's abilities is often manifested in an extreme case of "back seat driver" syndrome.
Sometimes a potentially hazardous back seat driver situation can be defused if the driver forcefully establishes the fact he or she is in complete control of the vehicle. Some drivers or experienced passengers may also assign a useful but harmless duty to a perpetual back seat driver, such as navigator or travel game leader. By giving a back seat driver something tangible to do, the actual driver may be able to concentrate on the road ahead. An unchecked back seat driver can actually do more harm than good if he or she distracts the driver unnecessarily.