8

I'm at a fairly new job, and for transport, I'm carpooling with a coworker of mine, who owns a car.

I've noticed that this coworker tends to drive rather unsafely. I've first noticed them rolling past stop signs and using their cell phone while driving, often not noticing traffic lights and signs. They also speed up and brake very quickly on roads, which makes me feel dizzy, and often cut other drivers off on the road. Finally, after they cut a person off in a parking lot, I decided I've had it: I no longer feel safe when that person is driving.

Some relevant points:

  • The coworker is superior to me, and I'm supposed to report directly to them (though they aren't really my "boss").

  • I've only been employed at this firm for one week so far.

  • I don't have my own car, and public transportation networks aren't great here, so my only other option to get to work is to use cabs.

  • No one else who lives in my local area has stepped up to carpool: at least one has already agreed to do so with someone else.

How can I tell this coworker that I don't feel safe in their car when they drive like they normally do, and to drive safer when I'm in their car, without their feeling offended and my not losing my ability to carpool with them?

  • Nice, one other question: do you feel like you have a good relationship? I mean, is it a silent drive or do you interact? I ask this because depending on the relationship, if you stop carpooling the person might miss you and asked why you stopped. (I know it's a rather new relationship) – ConfusedHuman Jun 18 at 20:59
  • @ConfusedHuman I'd say it is a good relationship. We're silent in the car but that's only because of my request (I'm slightly AS and an introvert). – gparyani Jun 18 at 21:01
  • 2
    Since you can't drive someone else, have you offered to pay gas money or some other sort of swap that would make it attractive to your coworkers to give you a ride? – DaveG Jun 19 at 18:12
5

I'm afraid that I don't think that it's possible for you to achieve what you want here.

Here are your criteria again:

How can I tell this coworker that I don't feel safe in their car when they drive like they normally do, and to drive safer when I'm in their car, without their feeling offended and my not losing my ability to carpool with them?

What you want is known as to "have your cake and eat it too".

You've worked there for a week. Your boss is doing you a favour by driving you to and from work. (Yes, it's your boss: a co-worker who's superior to you and to whom you report directly is also known as your boss.)

You want to tell your new boss in your new job (who's doing you a favour) that they're a bad driver and make you feel unsafe. But you don't want them to feel offended by this, neither do you want to have to find another way to get to work and back every day. I don't really see that happening.

However you word it, sugar-coat it, or use "I statements"; what they're going to hear is "You're a bad driver". No one likes to hear that. It's basically telling them that they're bad at what they're doing. That sort of thing makes people feel offended.

I think you have three options open to you:

  1. You can tell your boss as politely as you can that they're a bad driver, by following one of the other answers. What will happen next depends on your boss's character. It'll range from nothing changing, to your career opportunities being severely limited, and might involve you having to take cabs to work for a while until you get your own car.
  2. You can get your own car as soon as humanly possible. Solve the problem by removing the whole situation.
  3. You could try and work up to it over time. One week (one working week at that, so only five days) is not really long enough, in my opinion, to tell your new boss that they're a bad driver. If you build rapport with them, get more friendly with them over time, then you should arrive to a point where you can speak to them about this.

Personally I would go for the second option and get out of the situation where my life is in the hands of a dangerous driver.


Anecdote time! You have to be careful even with friends: I have a friend who's a bit of a crazy driver; not a very bad driver (not as bad as the driver in the question!), but not a very safe one either.

One day I installed an application on my phone, I can't remember the name, "onroad" or something like that (it was many years ago and there a lots of apps that do the same thing these days) that I'd read about somewhere, which would use your phone's camera to watch the road and objects in it (e.g. cars) while you were driving, and it would warn you if you were approaching any object too quickly.

I tried this app out, and I just couldn't get it to work: I'd drive a little bit less safely than I was comfortable with and slow down or brake at (what I considered) the last possible safe moment, but the app just wouldn't trigger.

The following week I was in my friend's car as passenger, and thought I'd try this app out again. It worked just fine - alarms went off all the time as she would brake to stop in a way that would make Elon Musk and his suicide-burning rockets proud.

I had the temerity to joke about this later on that day. That the app I thought was broken actually worked just fine, I just needed my friend to be driving. She was in a mood with me about it for the next two weeks! I think it was even longer before she drove me anywhere again. And this is a close friend.

The funny thing is that during our drive the app actually worked - in a passive-aggressive way - because the beeping noise from my phone wasn't me saying "you're a bad driver", it's an piece of software saying it, and everyone knows that pieces of software are hateful things. I could definitely feel her begin to drive less quickly and being to slow down sooner, to avoid having the application admonish her with a beep.

2

First, you need to know that a lot of people don't like it when you make a remark about their conduct style because they feel attacked. I know it's true for my mother and also for every person I know that isn't really confident in their driving skills.

I don't know how people with a lot of confidence in their driving skills will react, however, even with a lot of confidence, being criticized never feels nice.

So, when you ask your coworker to drive more safely, you will need to be extra careful.

In those kinds of situation, one thing I learned is to make everything about you.

So, when I need a favor from someone and I'm afraid they will take it badly, here is what I usually do:

  1. Start by saying:

    I'm sorry

    This signals to the other person that you are going to tell them something and that they probably won't be happy about it. It's important because it gives them time to mentally prepare for what will come next.

  2. Follow by saying something like:

    I'm kind of an anxious person

    Here, you are making things about you. So, when you ask them to drive safer, they will know/believe that it's because you are an anxious person (more than average) and not because their driving is terrible (even if it's terrible indeed).

  3. Finish by expressing your request:

    Could you not look at your phone when driving me? It makes me very anxious.

    Several things to say here: I said "not look at your phone" instead of "driving more safely". "Driving safely" is kind of vague and people don't always know what you mean by that. Also, you might not have the same definition of "safe" as the other person, which means even if, by their standards, they can be driving more safely, you might still not be satisfied with the result. So, telling them about something concrete they could do will likely lead to better results (this is the case for me when I ask someone to improve their questions/answers).

    The other thing to note here is the second sentence. It is some modified version of the "I" statement technique. Stating why you want someone to do something help them understand the actual issue and they become (in my experience) more likely to do what you asked.


A little bit more about the "I" statement technique

This technique works as following:

When you do X,

It makes me feel Y,

Could you do Z instead?

You can learn more about it here or in a lot of other places on the Internet.

2

It won't be easy, no matter what, mainly because people still take driving close to heart and love to drive (automoblog and Telegraph).


Passive Approach

Back when I had just gotten my driver's license, but still took some rides with my dad, I often:

  • Involuntarily stamped the brake pedal whenever I thought he was too close.
  • Checked the rear-view mirror when he was doing turns or changing lanes.
  • Held onto the roof handle whenever I felt it was kind of dangerous.

Note that this may be seen partly as a back-seat driver (Independent), and they might be perceived as annoying when they vocalize these actions and concerns, so if you do that already or start to, be careful not to exaggerate. You mentioned having a good relationship with your driver, even though you haven't being acquainted for long, so he might notice you are doing this and change. In my case, I was genuinely worried, my father did notice me and actually started driving more carefully!

If your driver does notice and ask, you can just be truthful, with something like:

Sorry! I'm anxious/afraid of traffic and feel uncomfortable sometimes.

This will show you're worried, but not directly criticize the coworker's abilities and it might spur some wondering on their part.

Notice that this approach relies on the coworker noticing your reactions and actually caring or becoming curious about them.


Active Approach

You can also casually point out studies about things that are being done on your trips together, but actually don't work. This will work best if you're or have been a driver yourself, as the coworker will interpret it as your personal experience backed by research. One example is how changing lanes constantly don't get you there faster (CityLab and PracticalMotoring):

Back when I drove I usually changed lanes constantly, but then I read it actually doesn't matter, so I tested it and saw it actually wasn't getting me anywhere faster.

Another is how the usage of cellphone is dangerous (NHTSA). I abhor it and avoided it to the maximum, knowing how dangerous it is, but one day I was distracted, started using it and almost got into an accident, then never again. So you could kind of do a white lie and tell this happened to you or you could consider me a friend of your and tell this story.

-1

I'll use an existing answer of mine, as the advice is almost the same. But one is a friend, the other one a colleague. Makes a big difference.

Walking on eggs, because you still need the ride, and can't annoy this "superior", I'd use the fact that this person seems always on a hurry. And ask them if I can drive, so that they have more time to use their phone, ou do whatever they need, and can't (or shouldn't) do while driving. You offer them a service, they can say yes/no but don't feel offended most of the time.

Show them the advantage that they have letting you drive. But never point out what they do, they'll understand it as "you're a bad driver" anyway, no matter how you say it.

If needed, a small white lie can be used. Explain that you would be pleased to drive because it's something you want to do to thank them for the ride (do your share of the ride), and that you haven't done that for a while, enjoy it, and need practice. It's almost like asking them for a favor.

I always drive when with someone, and they enjoy the free time they get because of that.

If you drive safely, you lead by example. What you can't tell, you show.

  • 4
    A lot of people do not like if other people drive their car, especially if they don't know them well (only employed for one week) and/or if they are inexperienced drivers (which could be interpreted from not owning a car themselves). – GittingGud Jun 19 at 9:00

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