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1. A passenger in a vehicle (not necessarily in the backseat) who attempts to instruct the driver or criticize their driving skills. John quickly became annoyed at Mary's tendency to become a backseat driver whenever he drove her somewhere, so he just began to let her drive.
2. By extension, someone who tries to establish and maintain control over every situation. Primarily heard in US. Although Mary was capable of completing the project on her own, John couldn't stop himself from being a backseat driver and telling her what to do.
A person who stays sober during a social gathering and is responsible for safely driving others from one location to another. Since Kara never drinks alcohol, she always offers to be the designated driver for her friends.
in the driving seat
In control of a situation; in a position of power. Primarily heard in UK. Make sure to get good grades now, so that you're in the driving seat when it comes time to choose a college. We're still leading in the polls, so nobody panic—we're in the driving seat here.
Fig. an annoying passenger who tells the driver how to drive; someone who tells others how to do things. I don't need any backseat driver on this project. Stop pestering me with all your advice. Nobody likes a backseat driver!
in the driver's seat
Fig. in control; in charge of things. (As if one were driving and controlling the vehicle.) Now that Fred is in the driver's seat, there is a lot less criticism about how things are being done. Joan can't wait to get into the driver's seat and do what she can to turn things around.
a slow and leisurely driver who appears to be sightseeing and enjoying the view, holding up traffic in the process. (Also a term of address.) I'm a Sunday driver, and I'm sorry. I just can't bear to go faster. Move over, you Sunday driver!
A passenger who gives unwanted and/or unneeded directions to the driver; also, a person who interferes in affairs without having knowledge, responsibility, or authority for doing so. For example, Aunt Mary drives us all crazy with her instructions; she's an incurable backseat driver. This term originated in the United States in the 1920s, when it was first used for a passenger legitimately directing a chauffeur, and it was quickly transferred to figurative use. Also see the synonym Monday-morning quarterback and the antonym take a back seat.
in the driver's seat
Also, in the saddle. In control, in a position of authority. For example, With the boss on vacation, Mr. Burns was in the driver's seat and enjoying it, or She waited until after the election, knowing that she'd be in the saddle then. The first expression dates from the 1800s, the second from the early 1600s. Also see at the helm.
a back-seat driver
1. If you call a passenger in a car a back-seat driver, you mean that they keep telling the driver what to do. My mother is a terrible back-seat driver, especially when my sister is at the wheel.
2. If you call someone, especially a politician, a back-seat driver, you mean that they are trying to influence or control a situation that should be controlled by someone else. They accused the former prime minister of being a backseat driver. Note: This expression is used to show disapproval.
in the driving seatBRITISH or
in the driver's seatAMERICAN
COMMON If someone is in the driving seat, they have control of a situation. The radicals were in the driving seat, much to the anxiety of the moderates. Howe has warned against Britain not being in the driving seat as Europe takes important decisions. Those who had access to money were in the driver's seat.
a back-seat driver1 a passenger in a vehicle who constantly gives the driver unwanted advice on how to drive. 2 someone who lectures and criticizes the person actually in control of something.
in the driver's (or driving) seatin charge of a situation.
1998 Times The deal would propel the no-nonsense Lancastrian into the driving seat at the UK's biggest generator.
a ˌback-seat ˈdriver(disapproving)
1 a passenger in a vehicle who keeps giving advice to the driver about how he or she should drive
2 a person who wants to be in control of something that is not really their responsibility: There are too many back-seat drivers in this department. This is my project and I’m the one who’s in charge!
in the ˈdriving seat(British English) (American English in the ˈdriver’s seat) managing or controlling something, for example a business: With a younger person in the driving seat, we can expect some big changes in the company. OPPOSITE: take a back seat
n. an annoying passenger who tells the driver how to drive; someone who tells others how to do things. I don’t need any backseat driver on this project.
in the driver’s seat
mod. in control. I’m in the driver’s seat now, and I get to decide who gets raises.
n. a slow and leisurely driver who appears to be sightseeing and enjoying the view, holding up traffic in the process. (Also a term of address.) Move over, you Sunday driver!