Back Seat Driver

Meaning of “Back Seat Driver”

The phrase “back seat driver” means a passenger who criticizes the driver and his decisions while sitting behind or on the passengers’ seat. He or she instructs a professional without knowing the challenges. It also means a person is not involved in doing work, but he shows others that he knows more than them. Hence, he criticizes them for not doing that work appropriately.

Origin of “Back Seat Driver”

The phrase “back seat driver” was used in the print for the first time in the newspaper the Daily Kennebec Journal in its publication of May 1914. It goes: “Here he gets a tryout as a back-seat driver on a hook and ladder truck at St. Petersburg…”. Later the phrase has become popular in the United States with the same wording and hyphen. However, sometimes a hyphen is not included.

Examples from Literature

Example #1

Backseat Driver by Betty Bleen

What would I do if I didn’t have you
You’re so full of wisdom that you can see
All my faults and fallacies
And splay them out in front of me

What would I do if I didn’t have you
To tell me the things I need to do
To chide me for those I didn’t do right
To pick on me and start a fight

To tell me when to clean, how to cook
How much to eat, when to exercise
How long to sleep, how to drive…
Before I met you how did I ever survive

I wish I could turn you into a book
Share your wisdom with young and old
There must be others that need to be told
Who could benefit from your advice

The poet satirizes people who always try to find teaching moments, even if a person is a professional. He states that they often show their wisdom and chide others for committing faults. She teases that such wise remarks of persons must be written into a book.

Example #2

Backseat Driver by Bryan Fowler and sung by TobyMac

Silly me, silly me, aye
Revertin’ back to my old ways
Them got to be in control days jump before I pray yo, I’m headed out the doorway
But I want your way, yahweh
From dirt roads to highways
You’re showin’ me a beautiful view from this backseat
But there’s lots of room and I never would have seen it if I wasn’t rolling with you

I don’t wanna be no backseat, (don’t wanna be) no backseat driver
I don’t wanna navigate, (don’t wanna, uh), won’t you take it over (take it over)
I don’t wanna ever doubt you, I’m lost without you lord
I don’t wanna be no backseat, (don’t wanna be) no backseat driver
You got the wheel, take me where you wanna go
My heart is your’s, no matter where we roll

The song is written and sung by Christian contemporary artists. They agree that being in a backseat driver is good for a long time. The song also means that if God is your driver people should stop telling him how to be a driver or give instructions to drive.

Example #3

The Backseat Driver by Patrick G Hughes

I took a drive in the devil’s Cadillac
down one way streets and cul de sacs;
Through red traffic lights and red stop signs –
Me and the devil and the backseat driver,

We drove down the motorway at a slow speed
along green pastures where sacred lambs feed;
Increasing our speed when being chased by the past –
Me and the devil and the backseat driver,

Lost on the back-roads with no exit in sight
we came across three old farmers who told us “Turn right”.
Travelling towards the shining of a distant star –
Me and the devil and the backseat driver,

The poem highlights the drive of the poet through different streets of the city with emphasis that he and the devil are in the front and there is a backseat driver. Although the poem describes different pathways and scenes, the verse with this phrase is repeated after each stanza, stressing upon the meanings of the phrase. Perhaps, the backseat driver is choosing the path to travel.

Example #4

Gilda Died for Love by Elizabeth Elwood

She finally found a cab driver that was her match,” Beary informed his daughter. “Shaven head, cut-off T-Shirt and tattoos. We were running late and there was a massive traffic jam, so she told him to get us to the Lincoln Center as quickly as possible. I’ve never had a ride like it in my life – just those car chases in the movies. Your mother was scared out of her wits.”
“Back-seat driving didn’t work?”
“Not at all,” said Beary happily. “He ignored her completely. I gave him a huge tip and asked him if he’d done his driving training at the Indy track. He took it as a great compliment.

‘Gilda Died for Love’ story revolves around the character of Natalia Petrenko, a popular and rich actress. Beary and his daughter hired a cab for visiting different places. He is telling his daughter who likes acting that he has never seen such a ride in such a massive traffic jam. His daughter uses this phrase “back-seat driving” to ask him whether it worked at that time when he used to take his mother on cabs. Hence, he states that he used to pay tips to the drives and pass comments on their skills.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “Dad hated driving when mom came along. She was like a back seat driver, always telling him how to take turns and when to apply brakes.”

Example #2: “The managers would not appreciate backseat drivers, especially the new employees even if they have previous experience.”

Example #3: “Let the driver drive without distractions. Back seat drivers are responsible for multiple accidents.”

Example #4: “Angie declared that she is not a back seat driver. Hence, she refused to instruct anyone about the new google maps.”

Example #5: “Sophie talks too much. In fact, she is like a back seat driver because she keeps giving tips and ideas for almost everything.”