By Dr Rajan Philips -
Do dear ones play a role in a person getting involved in road accidents? Yes, sometimes they do. A UK study suggests that one in seven accidents can be traced to the ‘distraction’ caused by a fellow traveller who turns into a ‘back seat driver’!
Literally, a back seat driver is one who gives unsolicited advice to the driver, from the back seat of a vehicle. The person knows he has no control of the vehicle, but may feel uncomfortable with the skills of the driver and thinks it is his duty to tutor the driver. Clearly, he doesn’t have enough trust in the skills of the driver.
Or, the person derives pleasure in volunteering unsought advice and suggestions. Whatever the motive, little do such ‘back seat drivers’ realise the damaging consequences of their ill advised and inappropriately timed ‘tips’. Definitely no driver seeks such attention.
The UK study offers further insights and the visible impact of such an action. Men, especially the young, are more likely to take their eyes off the road to react to the criticism.
Women drivers tend to lose temper or get distressed. Spouses or partners are cited as the worst culprits for making back seat comments. Next in order are fathers or children.
Obviously, hardly anyone enjoys the prospect of driving with a fellow passenger donning the role of a persistent and zealous back seat driver. Yet, ironically, a staggering 92 per cent of motorists admitted to being a back seat driver themselves when someone else was at the wheel!
Back seat driving is not restricted to the roads. In a figurative sense we come across this phenomenon in several life situations. Don’t we have people who give liberal advice and instructions about any topic under the sun?
Most of the time they may have nothing to do with the issues and may not have any competence in the area either. But that never inhibits them.
We have related terms like armchair critic or armchair quarterback who criticises from the sidelines. An armchair quarterback is a sports fan who seems to know better than the players themselves and is always eager to shout advice, whether watching the game in a stadium or sitting at home watching the action on TV!
We can find back seat drivers and armchair critics right at home. A mother is right in feeling exasperated when she hardly gets any support from the father in the upbringing of the child but receives liberal dose of advice and criticism. It’s most annoying and frustrating and can even strain the relationship. A silent parent is better than an armchair critic who takes no responsibility at all.
The workplace also provides ample examples of such armchair critics who have all the right ideas when others are struggling to carry out their tasks. If they are asked to chip in they make themselves invisible. We do not have any shortage of such advisers on the socio-cultural scene either.
But let us remember that back seat driving, whether in a car or in a social or professional context,
does no good to anyone. In fact, the damage caused could be irreparable. So let’s just sit back and enjoy the ride!
A drunk driver is dangerous. A drunken back seat driver is more dangerous. — Demetri Martin
Think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.
— Bob Dylan
There can be no true response without responsibility; there can be no responsibility without response.
— Arthur Vogel