Backseat drivers might be a helpful addition to your car journey after all, study finds

Caroline Allen
·Contributor
·2-min read
They can be a real nuisance to drive with. (Getty Images)
They can be a real nuisance to drive with. (Getty Images)

We all have that one friend who visibly recoils every time we approach a junction or insists on going a certain way when you’re driving.

Yes, this type of behaviour is a real nuisance, but apparently it can serve a purpose.

New research has found that rather than losing it with vocal passengers, we should be happy to have them around because they might help our driving.

In fact, the study found that backseat drivers could help to lower the accident rate for drivers over the age of 24. Every cloud has a silver lining.

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“There’s this perception out there that passengers can be distracting, nagging and so forth, but after the age of 24 having a passenger in your car actually decreases the chance you’re going to have a crash,” says co-author Samuel Charlton, professor of psychology at the University of Waikato.

“Having a passenger look out the left-hand window and telling you whether it’s clear to go or not is very helpful.”

That doesn’t give white-knuckled riders an excuse to scream every time you drive past a lorry, though. That’s not productive for anybody.

Tone plays a highly important role in whether or not backseat drivers are appreciated or just, well, annoying. Those who adopt a kind and helpful tone are less likely to get the backs up of the driver than those who are abrasive or nervous.

Finding fault in somebody’s driving, especially if they’re new to it, is never a good idea and could end up knocking their confidence.

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Charlton recommends passengers ask the driver before they head off whether or not they’d like help with anything, whether that’s checking their blind spots or guiding them into a parking position.

It can also be helpful to pass famished drivers food or drink on long car journeys – but only if this is done safely, of course.

According to the RAC, it’s not illegal to eat and drink food in your car as long as you’re not distracted in the process.

Auto Europe even provides a list of easy foods to eat in the car, in case you or your backseat driver need a bit of inspiration.

These include chopped fruit and vegetables (such as apples, bell peppers and celery sticks), nuts like almonds, walnuts and peanuts, and dark chocolate broken into chunks.