In most auto accidents, it is the driver who is responsible for being negligent in their actions. It is possible in some cases that the reckless or errant behavior of the passengers in the vehicle are the main cause of the crash. Just like the driver of a vehicle, the passengers too must act in a responsible manner and not do things that may pose a danger to persons inside and outside the car. Here are a few examples of behavior that could be considered as passenger negligence and cause them to be held at least partially liable for a car accident:
- Sticking any part of their body out of the car’s window while it is moving
- Physically putting their body in a position that obstructs the driver’s view of the road
- Grabbing or pushing the driver or other passengers inside the car while it is in motion so that the driver’s ability to control the vehicle’s movement is impaired
- Covering the driver’s eyes
- Wrestling to control the steering wheel
- Playing with the buttons or controls of the car in a manner that distracts the driver’s attention
- Shouting or fighting with the driver or other passengers in the car in a manner that distracts the driver
- Insisting a driver drives even when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Young drivers are far more likely to be affected by passengers inside their vehicle. For that reason, there are certain restrictions put on their licenses while under the age of 18. It is illegal for them to drive with more than one passenger under the age of 21 unless those passengers are family members.
Tips for Staying Focused While Driving
The National Highway Safety Administration shares some its favorite tips for putting the distractions aside and focusing on the road.
- Train your brain. We expect our brains to be able to simultaneously handle eating, talking on the phone, and getting work done. It is easy to get into the habit of not focusing completely on any one activity. So practice focusing on just one task at a time.
- Plan in advance. Whether you’ll listen to your favorite radio program or an audiobook, program it before you start the ignition. Also, if you’ll be using some type of GPS system, take a few minutes to program it ahead of time.
- Save the goodies for later. Those few distracted moments when you are reaching your hand into a bag of potato chips – or even worse when you try to clean up a spilled soda – can cost you more than you think. Avoid eating while driving.
- Personal grooming sessions. Don’t do your hair while driving, and wait until you’re parked to put on your lipstick or mascara.
- Protect your pooch. Whether you’re taking them to the vet or out for a day at the park, your best friend should not distract you while driving. Make sure your pet is in a traveling cage or safely harnessed so that they don’t harm themselves or distract you while you’re driving.
- Park your phone. Your phone is your greatest enemy while driving. Turn it off, program it to mute, or lock it away in the trunk of your car, but keep it out of your hands while you’re driving.
- Eliminate small hazards. Loose items in the car can be another distraction, so make sure everything is in its place before you start the car.
- Enlist help. When you travel with passengers, ask them to help you to remain focused. Let them know that your priority is getting to your destination safely.
Brad says, “At the end of the day, even if a passenger is causing a distraction, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that they drive safely. If there are things that are preventing the driver from paying full attention to the road, they should pull over until the distraction has stopped. If the passenger encourages the driver to engage in reckless behavior while behind the wheel, the driver is still responsible for making a conscious decision, but there can be partial passenger liability for directly influencing the driver.”