Is your elderly Mom or Dad.......a back seat driver?

Started by

As if I don't have enough worries, lets add this to the arsenal. My mother is the
worst passenger a person could ask for in their vehicle. She is the proverbial, 'back seat driver'! It drives me crazy. She has to comment on all aspects of my driving. She has macular degeneration, but she has 'perfect vision' to criticize my driving. I could be talking to her while we drive and she will interrupt and say something about either mine or another drivers driving. I go too fast, I follow too close, there's another vehicle near me, etc. It never ends! Let's hear from others who go through craziness that is somewhat off track from the normal caregivers complaints.

22 Comments

I totally understand this comment! My father who is 92 suffers from macular degeneration also and has the same opinions as your mother. I also hear "why did you go this way? I would have gone the other route". Too fast, too close and questioning why I choose to use the expressway are the usual comments when we are in the car. He is hard of hearing also so there is not much conversation, but only the tension that I feel that any minute I will hear about my driving skills! I have to say that he has expressed more fear of what is around him because of his low vision and I do sympathize with that thought, but I just wish he could sit back and enjoy the ride.
My Mom was a bit the other way. My husband was driving her to visit her sisters, a very long ride through the state of NY, with cars in front of him that he couldn't pass, on small roads. Mom says, "How fast are you going? If I were driving, we'd be there by now." He said he felt her foot press through from the back seat to the accelerator! She always wanted to go fast.

One day after coming home from the hospital, she wanted to drive me to a birthday lunch, but we said we would drive, since the restaurant she picked for me was far away, through winding roads. While we were driving there, I tried to cheer up the somber mood of the car (because she was so angry she wasn't driving). I thanked her for taking me out for my birthday... she said, "I haven't paid for it yet!!!" Needless to say, we drove and I paid.

At 92, just 6 months before her passing, she snuck out of the house with someone, in secret to go to the local elder driving testing place. She triumphantly told me she scored at the top of 92 year olds in intelligence, so I should take her for the 'in-car' driving test. I wondered to myself, what relevance scoring at the top of 92 year olds has to do with driving, but I agreed to check out the process with her. They took her on the road for 1.5 hours and she passed!

As she was leaving the offices, they told her she should consider the "transition" from driving in the years to come, like she transitioned from working to retirement. I asked what they were talking about... she didn't transition to retirement. She hadn't worked (outside of the house) since she was 25 yrs old. I think she told them some fantastic stories...

No one ever drove fast enough for her.
I am guilty of being a back seat driver and let me tell you why. First of all I have had only one accident in 50 years and it was not my fault. I became disabled because of it. My children on the other have totaled 3 cars and have gotten dozens of speeding tickets. So far everyone of them have not been seriously hurt and have not hurt anyone else. I don't understand why my kids have to ride so close to the other car. I tell them all the time they can go the speed limit and still keep a safe distance. I also tell them to look for brake lights 2 or 3 cars ahead so they can prepare to stop. This drives them crazy but I don't care. I love them too much to not speak up.
My mother was always paying for the gas, or it was her RV or van - so she thought that she had the right to pick out the route. She never gave a thought to what the other 5 people in the vehicle wanted. And she wanted to stay on the backroads - all the way to FL, from IL.
My mother is the same way. She's constantly asking if I have my seatbelt on (it's the first thing I do when I get into the driver's seat) or saying how fast we're going...everything you've all heard yourselves.

The other day I took her shopping and I had to go the mall to return something to Sears. As I'm driving around the backside of the mall to get to the entrance I wanted, my mother shouts out, "THERE'S SEARS!!" as if I had no idea the store was there. I told her that I knew where I was going. Her comment was that she was trying to help me get where I needed to go.

What makes this so ridiculous is that she's new to the area and has never shopped at the mall (although I've gone in to get something and she's opted to stay in the car.)

I try to use the "dysfunctional bingo" mentality whenever I'm with my mom. Someone suggested this to me when I asked about another topic on this website. My mom has no sense of humor, so I don't have anything physical (like a hand-made bingo card)...I just do everything in my head. When my mom says something critical about me, my family or my driving, I don't reply. I just mentally tally that I've earned an imaginary $5. As the day goes on, I keep a running total in my head about how much money I've "won" by her making nasty comments. Some days I've "won" $40 or $50 imaginary dollars.

Playing this imaginary game helps me get through the stressful hours when I'm with my mother and gives me something else to think about, instead of her comments.

Maybe it will work for you too.
Both my parents are in their 90's and both have macular degeneration, I can't imagine what they are going through with their eyesight, of lack thereof.

Yes, both are semi-back seat drivers.... the only issue is whenever I am at a STOP sign waiting to pull out in heavy traffic. Dad will be telling me the "coast is clear"... I appreciate the help, but usually the coast is NOT clear.

Another issue, is seat belts. My Mom hates using them but she will buckle up at the start of the ride. But whenever we are a couple blocks from where we are going, I hear her unbuckle the belt... she is very hard of hearing so saying anything is fruitless. It scares me when she does that because I have read too many accidents where an elderly person has died in a survivable accident because of not wearing their seatbelt.

I think many Seniors resent the fact that they can no longer drive and have to depend on others to get them from point A to point B. I know my Dad is constantly saying he wishes he could drive and he still thinks he can safely do it. I've seen him with a grocery cart at a store.... you don't want him out on the roads :]



A backseat driver is a dangerous distraction to the driver. My mother was guilty of doing it. I told her she had to refrain from telling me how to drive and having verbal outbursts at other bad drivers or I would stop transporting her around. I have a perfect driving record and don't need an older person who is too afraid to drive themselves, telling me how to drive.
My mother also does this and I have a panic attack every time I have to transport her. Back-seat drivers are an enormous distraction, and I have had a couple of near-misses due to my Mom calling things out, telling me when to brake, turn etc....I have tried explaining to her that she is going to cause an accident, not prevent one and it is very insulting to me as a driver (or anyone who is driving) to engage in this sort of behavior. She has always been like this and has always had poor boundaries, but the dementia seems to be accentuating this aspect of her personality. When we get in the car, I state politely, "please no back seat driving, it really causes me to get distracted." Sometimes she heeds my request, and sometimes she doesn't. I wish I had a magic answer for all of us!
Yes, yes, my husband is the "front seat" complaint driver, but I just tell him if he is going to ride in the car, I have to do the driving without comment. Tell your mother if she wants to ride with you, she can just look elsewhere. Make your rules and then don't back down. If she makes a comment, go back home.
Just a piece of advice for all drivers out there. Be a defensive driver! There are so many vehicles on the road, it's actually a danger. Be alert at all times. Also, like they teach the UPS drivers......don't watch the road by looking right over the hood of your vehicle.......watch the road ahead of you by looking way ahead. Keep you eyes looking 100 yards or more in front of you.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support