Car passengers should follow these habits for a safer drive

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Published: Thu 25 Nov 2021, 3:38 PM

This week, we turn our focus away from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat. Very often, we drive in the company of our fellow human beings — be it a colleague from work, a family member, a friend or a plural of any of these. They can help break the monotony of driving, especially on the long hauls and even make it fun through engaging conversations, by providing practical route suggestions, etc. But we aren’t talking about those who abide by the in-car rules. We are talking about the other lot, who with their apparent wits and habits turn the already tedious act of steering the wheel and pumping the pedals into a regrettable sentence. Here is us making you aware of what habits are yours to keep and what to break.


George Kuruvilla

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Be the conscious passenger

And we mean this quite literally! A sizeable population carpool to and from work, and this leaves the owners of the vehicles almost a 100 per cent of time behind the wheel. But that doesn’t sanction a snooze for the rest of the passengers in the car. One must understand that the one driving is not a chauffeur. And that giving him wakeful company helps keep a driver alert and ensures a safer ride.

If it is not sleep, it’s the other unconscious activity i.e. the mindless scrolling of social media feeds on the phone or taking ride-long calls. Be it small talk with work colleagues or family gossip, don’t make it a habit to be on the phone for most of the ride. Once again, let us remind ourselves that the driver is not our chauffeur.

And don’t jump right to the other end of the spectrum either. We all have observed those chatter boxes that go on incessantly about how hectic their day in the office was or how awesome their weekend was. Steer away from one-sided conversations and let the driver interject. And if it is not these saga-like monologues, we have those who scream in surprise from seeing a cute puppy or celebratory fireworks. If you have something to convey, be civil about it. Say it with a certain dispassion that engages the driver, not alerting him of imminent danger every time.

The most irksome behaviour is backseat driving. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the front or back. If you are a passenger, avoid putting out unsolicited driving advice i.e. comments on their driving style, the route, etc. and most definitely do not say anything about the car itself, it can hurt the sentiments of the driver. Backseat driving can get the driver distressed, irritated or confused; none of which would benefit anyone. Of course, if you can’t handle the meandering ways or speeding habits of the driver, you are entitled to “make your say”, but otherwise leave the driving to the one who holds the wheel.

Food beyond thought!

Eating in the car is a subjective thing. Some drivers don’t mind it, while some others do. If proper etiquette is not followed, one can end up with an aromatic cabin that can last for days, and upholstery with sprinkles of crumbs. Not an ideal situation!

Also, enjoying a buffet of treats from the local gas station convenience store is one thing, leaving behind cans, tea cups, chocolate bar wrappers and chips packets another. And they are only often found days and, in some cases, weeks later because they were neatly tucked away in some corner the car. So passengers, use those napkins judiciously and leave them as tidy as you found it.

Meddling with the controls

Another unwelcome activity, at least for some, is meddling with the audio settings of the vehicle. The driver is at the helm, he controls everything. Don’t go stretching out your hand turning the volume knob or tuner at will. Leave the “DJing” to the driver. And while some may let you choose the radio station, think twice before singing chorus to your favourite songs at the top of your lungs. A light hum is acceptable. But there is a time when singing is excusable, when you’re on a long haul or you are playing a round of Karaoke with the other passengers.

The same goes for the A/C controls. If he has set it at “Auto” or an even 22C (or thereabouts), leave it at that. If you want a change, ask for permission.

Reserving seats and placements of the limbs

Call “shotgun” or dibs on the front seat. The rule is whoever calls first, gets the privilege. But don’t be cheeky about it, if there is fellow passenger who is taller or larger who could use the extra room, do the right thing.

If you are in the front seat, know that the right to the armrest almost always goes to the driver. He may be accustomed to a certain kind of driving style and if that is the case, give it up for the captain of the ship.

Putting your feet up on the seats or the dashboard is common scene. This is no-no for most. It’s not just about a dirty dash, remember that for the seatbelts and airbags to work effectively, you need to be in a proper seating position.

So, there you have it… a rundown of some of the positive and negative passenger habits. And let it not come as a surprise that, if you irritate the driver long enough, he or she may choose to pull the plug on the relationship, and you’ll be left ride-less or worse friendless.

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