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Car Etiquette - The Unspoken Rules Every Passenger Should Know

Updated: Dec 21, 2022


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There are some things a driver should never have to tell a passenger. Simply because the passenger should know. So before you get into a car as a passenger, be sure to read this blog about car etiquette - The unspoken rules every passenger should know.


No Backseat Driving


There is nothing more annoying than having a passenger trying to do the driving for you. Not only is it annoying, but it can also be downright dangerous. If you’ve experienced it, you know that someone suddenly telling you to turn left when you’re about to turn right can make you swerve. Most likely because you think there’s some unseen danger and not that the person riding shotgun believes it to be the faster route.


Do Not Touch the Controls


Obviously, you won’t try to honk the horn, or change gears, right?! It can cause massive accidents. However, even something as innocent as changing the temperature control, or turning up or down the volume on the radio, can be seen as offensive to the driver. You’re riding with them - that means they decide how loud the radio is playing or how hot/cold the car is. However, you can easily ask them to turn something up or down. If you ask nicely, chances are they’ll grant your wishes too.


Don’t Smudge the Windows


You may not think twice about it, but just pressing a hand against a window will leave a mark. A mark that might it more difficult to see out, which is bad for the driver. The mark might also irritate the owner of the car to no end if they like to keep a spotless car.


Ask Before You Eat


Some people don’t like to have other people eating in their car. Why? Most likely because some stains are hard to remove and if you leave crumbs, well, they need to clean their car again. Odours can also be a problem for some drivers too - they probably do not want their car smelling like McDonald’s. Some might even get car sick from strong smells.


If They’re Giving You a Lift - Offer Something in Return


If someone offers to drive you somewhere, offer to pay for petrol, or consider giving them a gift. Even a nice car air freshener or something else for the car will surely be appreciated. At the very least, show your gratitude and offer to do them a favour in return.


Don’t Litter


This goes without saying, but do not litter. If you unwrap a candy or blow your nose, throw the litter in a bag you’ve brought with you, not in the car.


Go Light on Perfume


As mentioned, odours can cause nausea. If someone easily gets car sick, chances are that a strong perfume will make it worse. Even if they don’t get car sick but simply don’t like your perfume, it can cause irritation. If the driver is using an air freshener in the car, it might also become overpowering.


Ask Who Goes in Front


As a general rule, whoever gets car sick the easiest rides shotgun (i.e. in the front seat, next to the driver). The other unspoken rule around this is that the oldest passenger rides shotgun. Kids go in the back, adults in the front. However, if it’s your friend’s car and they’ve promised their son Bobby to have his turn riding shotgun, then he rides shotgun. In short, ask before you assume you’re riding shotgun if there are other passengers in the car. And if you easily get car sick, let the driver know. It’s better you ride in front than puke in the back. If you’re alone with the driver? Ride shotgun. Riding in the back is considering rude as it’s then believed you’re treating the driver as a chauffeur as opposed to friend.


Wear Your Seatbelt


The driver won’t want to be responsible for you getting killed if there’s an accident. Wear your seatbelt.


Don’t Fiddle with the Doorboxes or Glove Compartment


You don’t know what the driver has put in the glove box compartment. Most likely they have stocked up on snacks, maps, car air fresheners, odd tools for the car, or breakfluid. But they might be using it as a litter box, keep their most personal belongings in there, or simply not want you putting your dirty paws in there! In short, just as you wouldn’t go through someone’s desk drawers, don’t go through the various compartments in their car. It’s private.


Don’t Put Your Feet Up


If it’s a long ride, you might be compelled to pull your feet up underneath you, or put your feet on the dashboard. Don’t do it before asking permission. To some, it’s seen as very rude. Not to mention - dangerous if there are airbags. If you’re keeping your feet on the dash, that is.


Ask Before You Light Up


Before lighting up a cigarette in someone’s car, ask if it’s OK.


Beware of the Driver’s Mood


Some people enjoy talking while driving, other’s don’t. They might get irritated or even lose concentration and drive off the road. For that reason, also try to stay away from emotional topics. The last thing you want is an emotional driver.


In Closing

The above is referred to as car etiquette and you’re meant to know it by heart. The bottom line is pretty simple though: if it’s not your car, ask before doing anything.


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