If you are the passenger in a car where the driver is behaving dangerously then you may feel very uncomfortable. Although you might be concerned about the way they’re driving, some people may feel uneasy about telling the driver how they feel. However, many road safety initiatives and campaigners are urging young people in particular to speak out if they are worried for their safety.

As NI Direct point out, your safety is paramount so it is always advisable to speak out if you’re concerned. Plus, you could be safeguarding not only your safety, but the safety of the driver and other road users.

Promoting passenger safety

Learn2Live is one campaign designed to promote passenger safety. The partnership is made up of representatives from police, paramedics, local road safety teams, consultants and fire and rescue service workers. Their aim is to target young drivers, who are statistically “one of the most at risk groups when it comes to road traffic collisions”.

Learn2Live information on being a passenger says that when a driver loses control of the car and is heading towards dangers, such as a tree or a wall, they tend to steer themselves away from the danger. This can mean that the front passenger takes the impact if a collision occurs. According to Learn2Live, statistically more girls die as passengers than as drivers, as they often travel in the front passenger seat. These findings have led to the front passenger seat being dubbed the ‘sacrificial seat’, and Learn2Live are urging front passengers in particular to speak up if the driver is not driving safely.

Ultimately, Learn2Live recommend that if you know someone is a risk taker when it comes to driving then it’s best to avoid getting in the car with them at all. However, if you’re travelling in a car with someone for the first time and discover that they do not drive safely, then it’s important to challenge this behaviour.

Challenging unsafe driving

When it comes to challenging dangerous drivers’ behaviour there are many different ways to go about it.

Say something

One of the main things you can do if you’re in the car with a dangerous driver is to speak up. However, Learn 2 Live say that you don’t have to be rude. If you feel uncomfortable you could make up an excuse, such as feeling unwell, in order to be able to get out of the car. Even if you are not near home it’s still better to get out of the car, wait somewhere safe and call a taxi, or ask a family member to come and get you.

Avoid dangerous situations

If you suspect that a driver has been drinking, or taking drugs, then do not get into the car with them. NI Direct advise that you try to persuade them not to drive, reminding them of the dangers and the possibility that they could lose their licence. According to Drink Aware, alcohol affects a number of the actions that we use to drive safely, including how the body processes information and how long it takes for the messages to pass from the eye to the brain. That’s why it’s so important not to travel with a drink driver. NI Direct recommend always having the number of a local taxi company stored in your mobile phone, so that you can get home safely if your designated driver lets you down.

Young drivers and passengers

Information from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says that there is a strong connection between the number of passengers in a car and the risk of a teenage driver dying in a crash. They cite a study by the American Automobile Association Foundation, which found that the likelihood of a 16 or 17 year-old driver being killed in a crash increased with each additional passenger in the vehicle.

The ABI publication on Improving the Safety of Young Drivers also compared the relative risks of driver death per mile. The chart below shows that young people are twice as likely to be killed as those who are driving alone; this jumps to four times more likely to die if they carry three young passengers.

Driver deaths by number of passengers

Source: https://www.abi.org.uk/~/media/Files/Documents/Publications/Public/Migrated/Motor

If you’re a passenger in a car with a dangerous driver at the wheel then remember that the most important thing is your safety. Never feel embarrassed to voice your concerns, and if you do feel uncomfortable then have a few potential excuses in mind, such as feeling unwell, so that you are able to get out of the car safely. A safe taxi ride or a call to your parents is always better than the risk of continuing your journey with a dangerous driver.