DeAnn Owens
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Teens Earn Backseat Driver Label from Parents

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yellow student driver sticker with black writing on the rear bumper of a car
Photo: The News Wheel

Everyone is a critic.

This old saying especially applies to teens when their parents are behind the wheel. According to a new survey facilitated by OnePoll at the request of Smith Micro Software, three in 10 answers revealed it was the teen in the family who wears the badge of “backseat driver.” The survey polled responses from 2,000 American parents of teenagers.

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Teens are not the only family members earning blame, though. Twenty-three percent of respondents pointed the finger at their partners or spouses as being the driving critics.

The criticisms and unsolicited advice of a backseat driver are not just annoying though; it can add stress to an already stressful activity, according to the survey.

Forty-nine percent said they get too much feedback on when they should turn. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said their driving speed (going too slowly) is a topic of conversation from particularly vocal family members. Thirty-six percent said that it is not words, but actions, such as “white-knuckling the dashboard” that signal their backseat driver does not approve of their driving habits.

On the flip side, teenagers are not the only ones who demonstrate backseat driving behaviors to torture their parents. The parents who complained about their teens’ input confessed that they are guilty of the same comments and behaviors when their teens got behind the wheel.

During driving instruction, “eight in 10 admit that they themselves become a backseat driver when their kids were behind the wheel,” reports

Some of the habits parents worry most about when their teen driver is driving solo include being distracted by technology, both on calls or texting on their smartphones, and driving with other teens in the car.

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Sixty-three of the parents said in the survey that having friends in a car puts them at a higher risk for a car accident.