Magazine

How to be a good passenger

Protect yourself and others with our top tips

A car driver and passenger

Passengers can - and frequently do - distract drivers, sometimes with costly consequences. Road accident stats in 2019 report that car occupants (both drivers and passengers) accounted for 42% of road deaths.

While it may seem like the responsibility lies behind the wheel, as a passenger you can play your part in keeping everyone safe.

Here’s our top tips to help you stay safe:

1. Who’s calling?

Be responsible for the driver’s phone if possible. While hands free can be a great help, go one step further and ensure that your driver doesn’t even have to think about their phone while driving. 

This can be anything from checking notifications to deciding on the music. If your driver is frequently tempted to check their phone, insisting that it stays with you for the duration of the journey can be a great way to prevent distraction – provided they trust you with it of course!

This said, if you’re taking phone calls for your driver then try to keep them short and only answer if necessary. 

When a passenger talks on the phone it can be difficult for the driver to resist becoming distracted. Most conversations can wait until you're stopped somewhere safe, so take a moment to consider whether a phone call is necessary. 

2. Where next?

If you’re on a journey to somewhere new and don’t have a Sat-Nav with voice instructions, take the initiative and familiarise yourself with the route to provide directions for your driver along the way. 

If you’re using a Sat-Nav or GPS, offer to input the destination and any changes so that your driver can keep their full attention on the road. Just a few seconds spent struggling with technology can have serious consequences, so don’t take the risk.

3. How loud?

While we all love a good road-trip playlist, as a passenger be mindful of the volume and how this may affect your driver. Keeping your carpool karaoke to a reasonable level means that you can both still hear any sounds from the surrounding traffic. 

No matter how excited you and the driver might be to hear your favourite tunes, keep it at a reasonable volume. 

4. Offer advice…

As a passenger, you’re an extra pair of eyes on the road. Stay alert and let your driver know if you notice any hazards, for example. It can be tempting to switch off or slumber in the comfort of the passenger seat, but your driver will thank you for the input. 

5. …but not too much advice 

Back-seat driving has a bad reputation. And not without good reason. Your input as a passenger should be helpful and limited to what’s necessary for your safety, rather than pointing out trivial or minor critiques. Save the feedback for after the trip, so that you can focus on easing rather than adding to the driver’s stress level. 

6. Strap yourself in…

While this one may be obvious, many passengers still neglect to wear a seatbelt, particularly on shorter journeys. Yet, the research is clear. You're twice as likely to die in a crash if you aren’t wearing a seatbelt.

The Highway code makes it clear that seatbelts are a non-negotiable if fitted in the car or vehicle, unless you hold a medical exemption certificate. As well as preventing injuries, you’ll save yourself potential fines of up to £500. It’s a no-brainer. 

7. … and your children too!

If travelling with children in the car, it’s likely that your role as passenger will also evolve into one of crowd control. Keeping young ones safe and quiet in the car is key to preventing driver distractions and avoiding accidents. 

As well as seatbelts for the older ones, a car seat is a legal requirement for most children under three years old. Making sure you have the right car seat for children can be the difference between a smooth ride and a toddler tantrum and will make sure you’re in line with government guidelines.  

If in doubt, check out our guide to planning a family road trip for more useful advice before you hit the road.