Backseat Driver Meaning

An expression in use since at least the 1920’s.

Meaning of Idiom ‘Backseat Driver Idiom’

A backseat driver is a person who insists on telling the driver what to do, how to drive, what roads to take, etc., regardless if the driver wants the advice or not. This expression refers to said person being annoying.

The expression is used while driving, but it can generally refer to anyone who criticizes, gives unwanted advice, or lectures another person who is doing something.

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When the idiom is used while driving, anyone can be a backseat driver, even from the front passenger seat. Back seat driver does not have to refer to someone sitting in the back seat.

Backseat driver idiom meaning

Examples of Use

“I hate to be a backseat driver but your driving makes me really nervous!”

“My husband is the worst in the car, a total backseat driver.”

“You should test the valve before you install it,” said Neal. “Don’t be a backseat driver, Neal,” said Rick.

“I know exactly where I’m going; stop being a backseat driver!”

“Now, Eeeyore,” said Pooh, “I know I’m a bear of very little brain, but nobody likes a backseat driver.


The reason for this expression is easy to analyze. It refers figuratively to someone who is trying to “drive” a car by use of oral instruction, even though they don’t have hands on the steering wheel. The expansion of the expression beyond driving uses driver as a metaphor for person in control. Originating in the 1920’s, it may have come from people directing chauffeurs from the back seat of vehicles.

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