#523: Life with a no-good, very bad terrible driver

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a wonderful fiancée.  She’s compatible with me in every single way and we’re looking forward to starting our lives together.  Save one little thing.  She’s possibly the worst driver in the world and I can’t get my license until awhile after the wedding for reasons I prefer not to get into.  

She’s had multiple accidents.  She regularly swerves into other lanes then can’t figure out how she got there.  She follows far too closely–she’s under the impression that, at highway speeds, safe following distance is ‘you can see their wheels.’  She texts, Tumblrs, checks her email, all while driving.  

I tried suggesting that we get her a dash mount for her phone so she can still use the GPS without having the distraction of phone-in-hand.  She says she likes having it in her hand and won’t put it down.

She loves to drive, loves road trips and wants me to go road tripping with her.  She’s absolutely convinced she’s an amazing driver and no amount of me trying to gently offer suggestions to correct her driving has managed to convince her she might have a problem.  I’m absolutely terrified when she’s behind the wheel.  I’m an excellent driver who took defensive driving courses before getting my full license as a proactive step, but, as stated, I cannot drive right now.

How do I get her to understand that I’m terrified she’s going to die in a fiery crash, without offending her?

Ruining the interior with my fingernails

Dear Ruining the Interior:

“Without offending her” there is no way to have this conversation. She thinks she is a great driver. You think she is a terrible driver.Based on the whole texting/reading Tumbler/checking email thing, I think she is a terrible driver + an ENORMOUS PIECE OF SHIT MOTHERFUCKING ASSHOLE. How fucking entitled do you have to be to behave like this? She should be arrested and have her license revoked, and if I were in the position to make that happen, I would do so, with pleasure. No love.

The only scripts I can think of go like this:

Reading/Texting while driving is illegal, please stop doing it.

:She doesn’t:

“Okay, let me out please.

:You take cab home or call a friend to pick you up:

:Huge fight ensues – if you’re lucky, AFTER you are out of the car.:

I am terrified to get in a car with you, and I refuse to do it until you take x, y, and z measures to improve your driving” where X= phone is OFF and AWAY, Y = driving lessons and Z = 6 months without any kind of moving violation or dangerous behavior, maybe you’ll revisit the decision about whether to ride with her.

:You refuse to get in a car with her:

:You take the bus everywhere, assuming there is even a bus:

:Huge fight ensues:

Or you could try “I do not feel safe riding with you. You do (example) things that are unsafe”

“No, I’m a great driver!”

“Ok, this is a problem, because your idea of yourself as a great driver does not hold up in reality. Do you want to hold onto that image of yourself, possibly at the cost of your or someone else’s life, or do you want to fix it?

:Huge argument ensues:

Here is the problem. This isn’t a tiny difference of opinion, a quirk, or an “agree to disagree” kind of thing. Your “wonderful, fully compatible” fiancée is a giant piece of shit motherfucking asshole around this one issue, and she puts herself, anyone in the car with her, and anyone on the road with her at risk. I am not a wizard, I don’t have a “stop being an asshole” or “correct that magical thinking, please” wand to lend you. I wish I did. You can’t control her behavior.  You can sort of mitigate how much it affects you by not putting your safety in her reckless hands, you can set a boundary and enforce it with lots of time on public transportation, you can tell her straight up how you feel, you can hope that she will see your point and be convinced of how very, very dangerous her behavior is.

Maybe Werner Herzog and/or the commenters can convince her, where you and I might fail:

From One Second To The Next, Werner Herzog

He made a documentary about people who have hurt & killed others while texting and driving. It’s sad stuff. I hope not to see your fiancée in a similar one some day.

148 thoughts on “#523: Life with a no-good, very bad terrible driver

  1. I totally agree with the Captain. That sort of thing is non-negotiable. I’m sorry but someone needs to report your fiancee, she is recklessly endangering the lives of others.

  2. Not to put too fine a point on it but if you tell your fiance “what you are doing makes me fear for my life” and they do not take a fucking step back to reevaluate their life and choices, DO NOT MARRY THEM.

    1. YES this is exactly what I thought. If your fiancee makes you *afraid for your health and safety* and refuses to take that seriously from you? BIG RED FUCKING FLAG.

    2. Seconded. i say this as someone who took a looooooooooong time to learn how to drive: she sounds like she will AT LEAST get herself killed, and probably you as well, and everyone else on the entire freeway with her.

      Do not get in a car with her, even if that means you go nowhere. Hell, I’m not sure she is safe to marry if she’s likely to get everyone around her and herself killed.

      1. “I am so special and magical, I don’t even have to pay attention to the road when I drive” = a scarecrow wearing a red flag suit stuffed with other red flags.

        1. You said it. People who are so entitled that they think “don’t text and drive” doesn’t apply to them have no sense of their responsibility to other humans—why would they have a sense of responsibility to their partners or families?

          1. And if it’s that she doesn’t intend to do it when she starts driving, but gets distracted by incoming messages or whatever, that distraction *probably* comes out in other ways too. (How do you not know how you’ve changed lanes?)

          2. The thing is, she IS intensely responsible to the point of anxiety about all things relating to partners and family and sharing time evenly and making sure everyone is sure they are okay and everyone is happy. In the years we’ve been together, I’ve seen her drive herself into the ground because of personal and familial responsibilities that she let take over her life. I don’t understand why, in this one area, she’s so out of character. This is the exception, very much, not the trend. I believe that this is a matter of familial socialization, that they all think that, because they’re all very, very, very smart, they’re more able to multitask than other people.

          3. Long-time lurker, delurking because I have to comment re this:

            “The thing is, she IS intensely responsible to the point of anxiety about all things relating to partners and family and sharing time evenly and making sure everyone is sure they are okay and everyone is happy. In the years we’ve been together, I’ve seen her drive herself into the ground because of personal and familial responsibilities that she let take over her life. I don’t understand why, in this one area, she’s so out of character.”

            LW, what you describe is not an example of being “responsible”. This behavior/mindset is a manifestation of your fiancee having an exaggerated sense of his/her own importance and power in the world. In other words, it’s just a different manifestation of feeling entitled: “I am so special/powerful/important/indispensable that the rules of the world don’t really apply to me. My family/partner NEEDS ME, and because they are MY family/partner, they are MORE IMPORTANT than anyone else’s family/partner.” This behavior/mindset is self-centered, egotistical, and blindly inconsiderate. It’s like a toddler is occupying an adult body, so when you put that person behind the wheel–scary. And sadly, it’s not that uncommon.

            So–this is not “out of character” at all. Perhaps cloaked in good intentions, fiancee is obliviously and dangerously self-centered.

          4. @Bill

            Uhm what, can you dial it down a bit? This can also simply be an example of anxiety/an upbringing where fiancée was made responsible for the feelings of her parents. (Which is not an excuse for recless driving, but your diagnosis of her entire character from afar is really weird.)
            And “a toddler in an adult’s body”? Like what now? Seriously, there is a point where you are jumping to conclusions and I think you crossed it.

          5. Another lurker de-lurking to say; if she and her family are so smart, why don’t they understand basic laws of physics? Like that no matter how clever you are your eyes cannot look at two things at once, that if you don’t SEE the object you need to avoid you can’t take action, that tonnes of moving metal take time to stop, no matter how fast you press the brake, the simple concepts of velocity and displacement that mean that the car is MOVING while she is looking at her phone and covers quite a lot of ground actually to name just a few of the extremely basic concepts your apparently ‘smart’ fiancee doesn’t seem able to grasp.

            Sorry, but people who live under the delusion that because they are so clever or skilled the laws of physics no longer apply shit me to tears. It is deeply, deeply stupid and arrogant to think this way. I would genuinely be incapable of loving someone that dumb no matter what other qualities they have.

            Every single time she touches her phone while you are driving, you need to tell her to stop the car and get out. To hell with offending her, she’s going to kill someone – possibly you – and needs to be stopped.

          1. oh this does make sense. fiancee believes that she must take care of everyone and everything which is tiring but also a source of pride. she considers herself too BUSY (read: important) to stop what she’s doing and focus on driving. everything else she’s doing and committed to is more important because she considers herself essential to so many people and activities. she may have been given/raised with this self perception, doesn’t realize it.

    3. This this this this this. A person who was my best friend for a long time was a terrifying driver, thought she was the best driver ever, and scared the shit out of me. And when I would say something, she would basically tell me to shove it.

      That relationship was flawed for a million other reasons, a great many of them my fault, but that pattern of “I have this identity for myself so therefore your feelings are wrong and I’m not going to listen to you” played out in a lot of other really shitty bullying ways.

    4. It’s a really perfect litmus test for marriage. If the LW cannot raise a totally legitimate concern that their fiancée is doing something illegal and potentially fatal, and if she cannot take their concerns seriously and work towards addressing them, they are setting themselves up for huge problems when they start a life together. On the other hand, if the LW’s able to bring up this important topic even if they’re afraid it will cause an unpleasant scene, and if the fiancée is able to take the criticism (feeling hurt and upset is okay, but denying reality, going ballistic, or attacking the LW is not) and deal with it (actually improving her driving), that’s a great sign for the future.

      1. Part of the issue at hand is my own anxiety. Literally every relationship I have ever had–friends, family, partners–has been horrifically abusive in some way. So I’m afraid of bringing things like this up any more strongly. It’s terrifying to me. I AM working on this in therapy, but this is the first time that I’ve NEEDED to bring something up more strongly with her. We’ve never had any major problem that wasn’t easy to address with a little gentle nudge before.

        1. LW, I kind of suspected anxiety might be part of it, because that would totally be my issue here. *wrygrin* Here’s your chance to practice? Learning how to be healthy in relationships is really hard! It might be nerve-wracking to bring this up with her. In some ways abusive relationships are “easier” because the answers are simple: “Should I tell this person something that will make them unhappy?” -> “HELL NO.” But being healthy’s difficult and sometimes anxiousmaking because you have to go out into areas that make many people feel hesitant and nervous, and trust that it’ll be okay because your relationship can take it.

          1. Me too.

            Short story: I never, ever criticised my ex because I was terrified he would leave me if I ever did. After about 3 years, I realised that I am totally comfortable with speaking my mind to my family *because I trust them to love me no matter what*. Turns out I had good reasons for not trusting my ex like that. I tried to change the dynamic of our relationship and he just got worse, so I broke up with him.

            LW, I advocate examining your anxiety to see how it ties into your fiancée compared to other people in your life. And then I advocate just doing your best to stand up for yourself, with the help and advice of your therapist (yay for therapists!), and I wish you success in both the standing up, and in getting the best possible result.

            Jedi hugs to you!

        2. Are you terrified of bringing up issues like this with other people in your life, or is it her in particular?

          I ask because you could almost be describing to the T an ex-best-friend of mine. Ridiculously smart, bad driver (not to this level you are describing but still), expert at herding friends and family in social situations to make sure everyone had fun, had to have things her way, and you COULD NOT tell her anything critical. Ever.

          Once, I got tired of it when we were having an argument about some political issue that we both felt strongly about. Normally I would have backed down in that situation but I didn’t. I got a ton of verbal abuse and I got pissed and called her on it, and she ended up brandishing a knife at me. Her husband had to step in and de-escalate things.

          Because blah blah blah Reasons we actually remained friends for a long time after that but I never dared stand up for myself in any serious way again. And it eventually crashed and burned because if you can’t speak up for yourself in a relationship… well eventually it tumbles down under the weight of its unresolved issues.

          Anyway, your situation is not mine and maybe the similarities I’m picking up on are just coincidental, but maybe not. If the issue is that you feel like you can’t bring things up WITH HER, I am suggesting maybe there is a reason for that – something that you either know outright or sense unconsciously. If she’s not a safe person for you to talk to when you have a problem, definitely don’t marry her unless and until that gets fixed.

        3. You know, this might be the way to start this conversation. By starting with “you know how bad my anxiety gets with confronting people who are close to me – so this is very hard for me to do and what I need from you right now is for you to listen to me closely, hear what I’m saying and be the loving and supporting person who I know you are. I NEED to talk to you about this because I can’t live this way any longer.”

          I used to have really big problems with confronting my partner with problems and I found that if I sat him down and explained that something was truly affecting our relationship but I was having problems vocalizing it then he would really focus on me and put in more effort to listen to what I was saying. It sets a more serious tone and gets more serious attention then if you were to try to casually bring it up. So if your partner really is so great in other areas – maybe telling them this will get you more than the casual brush off you’ve been getting so far.

          1. That is such a good idea. The seriousness of a conversation usually gets across when I start crying before I’ve even said anything (I am a fountain, hear me drip), but I think this would be a much less frightening-for-my-interlocutor way of doing the same thing. Even though I would still cry. But I can warn them beforehand!

        4. Another lurker here. As someone who recently had her car totaled by a distracted driver, I implore you to please try to bring this up with her. Obviously, you can’t control her feelings, or her actions, but what she is doing is dangerous to herself and to others. Even if she’s not overly concerned about the nameless, faceless other, she *should* care about herself, and about your feelings on being in a car with her.

          As other commenters have said, you physically cannot be paying attention to the road and your phone at the same time. If you’re distracted for the wrong 30 seconds, you could end up having a serious and totally avoidable accident.

          Even if she thinks you’re wrong about her abilities and doesn’t care about the law, she should *at least* care about your comfort and put the phone away while you’re riding with her. If she won’t do that much, it’s a huge red flag.

    5. Agreed — my dad thought it was HILARIOUS that Mum was scared of his driving, and when they finally broke up, she realised it was one of the red flags she had been ignoring.

      1. It’s funny, researchers looked at how married couples talked to each other and how that related to who ended up divorced and who didn’t. The answer was really simple: couples who were going to stay together tended to act as though they liked each other and wanted the other person to be happy, and the ones who were destined to divorce were more often negative, mean, and totally inconsiderate towards each other.

      2. Reminds me of how my friend’s dad used to PUSH HER LEG DOWN onto the accelerator when he thought she was going too slowly, while she was learning to drive.


  3. How about calling the cops and reporting the girlfriend for reckless driving next time she heads out alone? After all, its pretty hard to argue with an objective third party (the police especially) telling you that you’re a terrible driver. Then the LW can back them up if she still doesn’t believe it. And the police have the authority to get the girlfriend off the road, which the LW doesn’t.

    Also, I *do* think it makes a difference why the LW doesn’t have a license right now. If its because he/she moved and had to get a new one, okay. But if its because of a DUI or something similar, then both members of this couple need some more driving education.

    1. Eh, it could be for a medical condition like epilepsy or something. I don’t think it really matters, the point is that the LW is unable to drive and remedy this situation any time soon.

      1. That’s true. I guess the “for reasons I don’t want to get into” line made me wonder if it was an omission because it would have reduced his/her credibility.

        Though even if the LW could drive, he/she can’t drive their girlfriend around all the time forever. It’s a stopgap.

        1. Lina, even if that was the LW’s reason for leaving that point out, it’s still irrelevant to our ability to comment on his/her problem. I’m pretty sure that ‘in possession of a clean driving licence, no history of driving violations’ is not considered a prerequisite for LWs on this site to have us offer advice on their problems.

          If the LW has indeed lost zie licence for poor driving, then I’m pretty sure that will have brought the point home that ze needs some driving education, and there is no reason to think that matter needs further discussion here – it is now a matter for the licencing bureau. It doesn’t change the fact that zie fiancée is refusing to change her behaviour even though it clearly needs changing, which is the problem that was brought before us.

          1. Not to mention I’m on the LW’s side, because if they do have a limitation because of prior behaviour (as opposed to moving or moving violations,) they’re behaving responsibly and not driving. Which a lot of people in that situation do not do. In my opinion that shows me that they’re taking seriously whatever reason they can’t drive right now.

    2. If the LW doesn’t currently have a license due to their own unsafe driving (or even if that’s not the reason), they could try suggesting that they take driving classes together. It sounds unlikely to work, though.

    3. Having grown up as the child of a drunk driver, I want to point out that the burden of reporting a loved one for reckless driving really needs to be acknowledged here. This doesn’t strike me as very practical advice; we don’t want them to endanger themselves and others, but we also don’t want them to rot away in prison.

    4. Not my first guess, but if it’s true that LW can’t drive because of a DUI charge (or texting, or anything similarly awful), that doesn’t negate their assessment of the girlfriend’s driving. Unfortunately, it would give the girlfriend an easy defense: “How can you criticize my driving in light of what YOU did?” The only good answer to that is, “What I did was stupid and I’ll never do it again. Can you say the same, preferably before you kill somebody else?”

    5. If LW doesn’t have a license for medical or legal reasons, zie has grasped rule 1 of driving safety, and zir fiancee hasn’t: if you can’t drive safely, don’t drive. Zie isn’t telling the fiancee “you aren’t a safe driver, let me do it” if the reality is that neither of them should be behind the wheel. Nor is LW insisting on driving without a license. “You’re the worst driver in the world” is not refuted by “you’re as bad at it as I am” unless both people are trying to drive.

      You don’t need to be a good driver, or even an indifferent one, to know that the behavior LW describes is horribly unsafe.

    6. My theory is that if LW has a DUI or something, it makes him/her uncomfortable with the idea of raising the issue of Partner’s terrible driving, because Partner will just fling it back in his/her face. Maybe?

      1. Can I just say (not just to you Emmers, your comment just happens to be at the bottom of this thread right now), lots of people don’t drive for non-dui and even non-medical reasons. I don’t have a license because I grew up in a big city, my parents didn’t have a car when I was a teen, and I was 29 before I lived in a household with a car that I could practice with. To get a license means you have to pay to take the written test, take the time to practice (and maybe pay to take lessons, or at least have a safe driver who you trust to be your teacher/spotter), go take the road test (which may cost more money, depending on where you are)… Not everyone has access to those resources.

        1. Yes yes yes. I didn’t drive until much later than my peers for financial, practical and family reasons. Ended up practicing with co-workers at 1am after work. Which is….. not the best way to learn driving.

        2. Right, but the LW claims they are a good driver and they got their license with a defensive driving course. So while the reason they’re not driving isn’t really important, they clearly have/had the resources to get their license.

          1. Nevermind, read her response below. Oy vey, I’ve never heard of someone having to take an exam to get their license renewed (not that I’m up on all the traffic laws) and I just assumed that wasn’t going to be an issue – ouch and I’m sorry!

          2. Yeah, lots of places make you re-take your test if you let your license lapse for a while. The idea being that if you haven’t been driving for so long, there’s no guarantee you still know what you’re doing.

            It’s not so much the exact reason I was interested in, it just bothered me the extent to which people were acting like driving/having a license is the default, so deviating from that must be suspicious. From things I’ve seen on the internet and heard from American friends, I think that’s the attitude in a lot of the US, but it’s not necessarily the case in other parts of the world, and I think the less of that attitude there is, the better off the whole world will be.

    7. LW here: I was afraid that it would take too many words to get into it as I tend towards longwindedness. Basically, I had my license but no car. I could not/cannot afford to rent a car. My license expired and due to graduated licensing in my place of residence, I needed to take a driving exam in order to keep my license. I was supposed to drive my exam while visiting family, but my family is so abusive that I had to run away from them. I had no other access to a car. Fiancée lives in another country and we are waiting for immigration stuff. The area she lives in has public transit, but shitty public transit. I have no friends in her area due to being from another country. I cannot afford cabs when I visit due to the expense of visiting.

      I really do mean that I am an excellent driver. My only accident was caused by the other driver’s recklessness and there was no way I could have avoided it–and I very nearly DID avoid it because of my defensive driving. When I did drive, I used to take defensive driving refresher courses periodically to ensure that I wasn’t developing bad habits. I refused to touch electronics and would make sure that, if I did need to use something like a GPS, I had another person in the car to ensure its functionality. I actually threw a fit when my brother installed a better stereo in my car, when I had one, because the new stereo couldn’t be turned on with a single button so I couldn’t turn on the music while driving because it would require taking my eyes off the road.

      I *have* considered asking fiancée if we can do defensive driving courses together when we get there, especially as there are quirks of driving in her country that don’t exist in mine. I’m just worried that doing so will offend her.

      1. I don’t imagine you ever want to be in a position where you could find yourself saying “well, honey, I’m sorry that since that last accident you can’t drive and now you’re in physiotherapy and in constant pain, but I sure am glad I didn’t offend you by insisting you learn to drive safely! (Now, the lawyer hired by the parents of the kid you hit is calling again…)”

        You cannot manage whether or not she is going to be offended. Maybe she will be. That’s not on you.

        If this is not brought up and if she does not change (which is also not on you–but if she does not change this “la la la NO I’M A GREAT DRIVER I’m just possibly getting myself and others injured or killed” shit, I would suggest revisiting a few things–you can love someone bunches and still walk away if they are being poisonously self-and-other-destructive and hurtful), your lovely, wonderful fiancee is probably going to keep ending up in accidents and possibly worse.

        I know it’s hard. I know it can be terrifying to bring this kind of thing up, and that there are times when you are so afraid for what might happen with someone you love that you just want to stay somewhere they can’t hear you and cry, because if you go to where they will hear you they will ask what’s upsetting you and there will be a fight.

        (I am not saying there will be a fight. There might not be a fight. Regardless, you are afraid there will be a fight.)

        But it’s not like the two options are “fight so we feel bad” and “probably nothing bad happens except I feel bad”. The two options are “make it clear how bad this is” or “let the person you love keep putting themselves in serious danger”.

        I know it’s hard. I do.

        Speak up.

      2. She almost certainly will be offended. That’s okay. I think asking her to take courses with you is an excellent idea.

        I faced this situation with my mother, who has rather serious memory loss and problems with cognitive thinking. The day she asked me what a stop sign meant, I knew she was no longer safe on the roads. But what seemed blatantly obvious from my side was a terrible insult from hers…in her mind, she was a perfectly fine driver. And she actually had never had a (reported) accident, so I didn’t even have that evidence to fall back on.

        So, yes, it was a painful conversation to have, and yes, there were tears and things said. It still had to happen. Not only did I have a responsibility to her, I had a responsibility to everyone on those roads. And that was the point I kept repeating…”This is because I love you, and I can’t stand the thought of you getting hurt or hurting someone else. If I didn’t love you so much, I wouldn’t be so worried. And I know you love me and don’t ever want to hurt me, so we need to fix this.”

        In her case, ‘fixing this’ meant handing over the keys. In your girlfriend’s case, a driving course is a great start.

    8. Um, yeah, there are a multitude of reasons why someone might not have their license right now, and it’s a bit ableist to assume it’s (probably) due to a DUI or some mistake that LW made.

  4. “She’s had multiple accidents.” This is more of a red flag than anything else in the letter. She doesn’t have plausible deniability. It’s not like she’s a little bit reckless and impatient but mostly a safe driver.

    1. Yeah, she must be re-writing so many histories and jumping through so many mental hoops if she is truly convinced she’s a good driver despite multiple accidents! Good lord, it beggars belief.

  5. LW, I have a friend (my best friend, in fact) who I avoided riding with for a while because she pulled so far forward at stop signs that cross traffic had to swerve around her and being a passenger while that happened frayed my nerves. I was super hesitant to say anything to her because I didn’t want to hurt her. Once I did speak up, though, she starting paying attention to that behavior because she cares about my feelings of safety.

    I have expressed my resistance to riding with my spouse because he has a minor tailgating problem. Minor. We worked out a signal by which I could let him know that I was getting nervous about dying in a fiery crash (patting him on the knee), and he’d back off, even if he didn’t think he was tailgating, because he cares about my feelings of safety.

    It makes my spouse very nervous when I take corners at a speed he considers unsafe. Even though I feel like I am in perfect control of the vehicle, I still drive more slowly around corners when we are riding together or when I’m driving with our children, because I want him to trust me and be secure as a passenger, and because I care about his feelings of safety.

    I had a ex-husband who used to turn the headlights off and drive the wrong way at night, much to my horror, and his delight at my horror. Note I said “ex-husband.” Turns out, he didn’t care that much about my other needs or feelings either, like when I didn’t want to have sex with him, or when I needed him to get a job because working double shifts was sapping the life out of me, or when I didn’t want the person who assaulted me in our home any more, or when I thought that since he wasn’t working maybe he could clean the kitchen or do some laundry, and he thought that if I wouldn’t do it, his mother should, or that sabotaging my friend’s car engine was not an appropriate response to her telling him she thought I deserved better treatment. You see, people who don’t respect some boundaries, people who don’t respect some feelings, those people tend to turn out to not respect many if any boundaries and feelings.

    If your fiancé doesn’t take you seriously on matters of life and death (and legality), how can you trust her to take you seriously when you disagree on less pressing but equally important matters? If you plan to have children, will she drive like this with the kids in the car? If (when) she injures someone, are you prepared to carry the responsibility for her actions? If she was this flippantly dismissive about driving while drunk, would she still be your perfect match and someone you’d want to marry?

    1. Yes! I was just thinking about the driving-with-children scenario.

      I was once stopped behind a car at a light. Said car was so far forward it blocked the pedestrian crossing, and there was a man in a wheelchair who needed to cross. He had to go around the crossing entirely because he couldn’t get past the car, and that meant crossing into the traffic lanes! The guy in the wheelchair was understandably pissed and had a go at the driver of the car that was blocking the pedestrian crossing.

      Beyond the safety and legality of everything, it is basic courtesy to respect the other users on the road whether they a driving, riding, cycling, or walking.

    2. Just a bit of clarification–

      By “carry responsibility for her actions” I do not mean that a collusion she causes will be your fault, LW. What I mean is, when a couple is married, the social, emotional, logistical, and financial costs of one spouse’s negative behavior often are expected to be shared by the other spouse, even when the consequences are no fault of their own.

  6. I definitely feel bad for the LW. My last (now ex-) boyfriend was also not someone to be in a car with– as a driver he engaged in dangerous behaviors while behind the wheel, and as a passenger he also engaged in dangerous behaviors (like trying to feel me up, which is a NON-STARTER when I’m driving because I am very ticklish) and then accused me of being an “amateur” driver when I told him to stop. The other commenters are right: this behavior is an enormous red flag.

    Because the LW’s gentle suggestions have not worked, it really is time to have a tact-free discussion. Maybe even a fight. This is a discussion/argument/fight that is SO WORTH HAVING, though, because when you get into a car with someone, you put your life into that driver’s hands. Also, there’s not much point in trying to avoid fights about important things with someone that you plan to spend the rest of your life with. So forget gentle, go ahead and fight!

    The advice I would offer as a commenter:
    1. Stay out of your fiancee’s car!
    2. Have this argument (but NOT while in the car– at home)
    3. Back up the discussion with real action

    I completely agree with the captain that the only acceptable outcome is no phone in car + driving lessons + 6 months without any problems

    Not to detract from the seriousness of the LW’s predicament, I’d would also like to offer my favorite song about how important arguments really are to relationships, Jonathan Richman’s Couples Must Fight, because sometimes fights are important to have: http://youtu.be/kLnf5Cg1Zsk

  7. …Dude, okay, that is not cool. She needs to not be driving until she learns how to do it safely, because she is going to get herself, or more likely, someone else, killed. That is not something that you can, or even SHOULD, break to her gently. This is something that needs to come as a bucket of ice water to the face, or a ton of bricks to the cranium. She needs to realize the full impact of her actions, without sugar coating. Someone could DIE because of her.

    If she refuses to learn, like others have said, DO.NOT. MARRY. She clearly has entitlement and ego issues, and who’s to say this is the only place where that will come into play in a very dangerous manner? Please, for yourself, her, and any innocent lives she could end up taking or wrecking forever, do whatever it takes to make her realize that this behavior is NOT forgivable, not something that can be ignored or glossed over, and that she will have to deal with immediately.

  8. I agree, you need to say “I don’t feel safe” and get out of there the next time she does something dangerous. Since you haven’t done this yet, do you live in one of the many places where unable to drive = unable to work/shop/see friends? It sucks how in many places driving = such a basic human right that it’s hard to call out a bad driver because, yknow, what else are they gonna do, sit at home all day? The Captain often talks about assembling “Team You” and you may well need that team to get by without her driving you places.

    I don’t know anything from your letter about your geographic area, your friend/family networks, physical abilities, ability to trust the local cops, etc., but here are some first steps off the top of my non-car-owning head:
    – Tell a few trusted family/friends you’re not driving with her anymore – folks who you can count on to pick you up if you suddenly need it. (If folks have ridden in her car, they may well be happy to rally around you and lend a hand for the sake of getting you out of said car!)
    – Get their numbers in your phone, as well as cab companies, transit services, etc. And keep your phone charged and have cash on you.
    – Add to that: a roadside assistance number and non-emergency police number – if the conversation ends with you somewhere not so safe like the side of a sidewalk-less highway, you can send them an SOS. (heck, a “lousy driver is super angry and left me on the freeway” situation probably merits a 911 call.)
    – Do you have some friends/family you can stay with who are closer to your job/daily needs?
    – How much of what you get driven to currently can you do online/by phone? Or can you have a friend pick things up for you, even if they don’t have time to drive you places?
    – Do you know the local transit/bike/walk network? If not, get your hands on some maps and try doing some of your daily things one of those ways so you know the routes and how long it takes.

    I hope that helps & isn’t totally irrelevant to your situation – being prepared to ditch her car ought to give you some more confidence when you tell her you can’t ride with her. Good luck!

  9. My husband is a terrible driver – but you’ll never get him to admit it.
    He lost all his points for speeding, then lost his license because he crashed my car (in front of cops! And then he was rude to them!).
    He doesn’t understand the 2 Second Rule and *always* tailgates. When I tried to pull him up on it he replied, “But I’m doing the limit!”
    I’ve had my license for over a decade and just this year lost my first demerit point; according to him that means I can’t say a word about his record.

    We’re separated now and moving towards divorce. Not sure how much his driving had to do with that, but narcissism and inability to take criticism definitely did/does.

    1. It sounds like you haven’t made the wrong choice! People are allowed to make mistakes, but people aren’t allowed to be assholes about admitting their mistakes. Best of luck.

  10. Uhmmmmmmmm I am a scooter-ist who got hit by a car (at low speed, thankfully) whose driver was checking GPS on his phone and veered into my lane. I was lucky enough to walk away with an absolutely destroyed pair of shoes and leather jacket (sob sob sob) and some bruises on my ribs, but seriously, DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE. Don’t even GPS and drive if you can help it, especially whilst driving in the city where there are lots of pedestrians and people on bikes/other two-wheeled vehicles – pull over and figure out the directions to where you’re going, and THEN drive.

    1. “Don’t GPS and drive” is unsafe advice for many of us. For me, the whole point of having GPS instructions isn’t to find how to get there, but to prevent having to stop to reroute if I run into something unexpected, which isn’t fun or safe for someone who gets a lot of street harassment.

      That said, I agree absolutely it’s better to go over the route before starting, and I never look at the GPS while driving — I turn the screen off, and only listen to the voice directions. I highly recommend this, because looking at anything but the road is a bad idea.

      1. I should add: For me the point of having GPS is not having to stop to reroute AND not having to look at something for directions — the directions are audio. A written list of directions also pulls your eyes from the road.

        That completely made me fall in love with voice navigation when I tried it — don’t have to pull over or glance down to follow directions, just listen.

  11. This letter hits close to home because my husband was run off the road by a driver not paying attention a few couple of weeks ago. Husband and his friend were on bicycles (in daylight) and Mr. Oblivious turned left so close in front of them that husband could either hit his left front tire or go into a ditch. Husband ended up on the ground with a ruined front wheel and Mr. Oblivious drove on.

  12. I have a student who was hit and suffered brain damage. We still don’t know what the long-term impact will be. The driver drove away – he or she was probably texting and may not have even noticed. This is no laughing matter.

    Also, harrowing documentary. (Captain, you left a colon out of the web address.) Just today I was checking my phone GPS while driving, and the documentary pulled me up short. I don’t text and drive, but the GPS is very convenient. I think I’ll stop doing that, too. Thanks for that.

  13. As a regular cyclist I have a visceral rage reaction to your description of your fiancé’s driving. It is so so so dangerous. I hate (loathe despise) the distracted driver a thousand times more than the dudebro who honks his horn and yells insults at me because at least the dudebro can see me. Anyway – I think people are given a false sense of safety by the comfortable, enclosed cabins of cars, but try travelling in traffic on a bike or motorcycle and you very quickly realise that cars are spectacularly dangerous vehicles that need to be driven with 100% of your attention. They are travelling very fast and they’re very heavy – when driving goes wrong people are maimed and killed.

    Your fiancé isn’t just doing something annoying – she’s literally risking the lives of herself and you and other road users.

    I think it’s easy to feel like we’re breaking the social contract by complaining too much about someone’s driving, but it’s not like a messy room or bad cooking. It’s an actual matter of life and death.

    And yeah – the part where she doesn’t respect your safety concerns is a huge red flag. I have known people like that, and if they won’t respect your safety concerns it’s not going to be the only opinion of yours that they ignore.

    1. I cycle regularly as well, and I am angry with all the entitled and dangerous drivers on the road.

      Just recently, six cyclists were killed in 13 days, here in London.

  14. If you absolutely, positively can’t bring yourself to be blunt, here’s a diplomatic tactic. I doubt it will work, but at least you can say you tried. Tell her that even excellent drivers will get into accidents — as she has, more than once — if they’re on the road with bad drivers. That means even excellent drivers need to be attentive at all times, to give themselves a better chance of avoiding the idiots.

    Seriously though, everyone else is right. You’re not obligated to spare her feelings here. You’ve already attempted the gentle, tactful approach. Time to try something new.

    1. This was the approach I took in teaching my sons to drive. Basically along the lines of “there are no accidents, just people doing stupid things”, and that they needed to try to protect themselves from the stupidity of others when they were behind the wheel.

      So if she is particularly entitled and blind to her own faults, she might buy that.

      But seriously? This is such a hot button issue for me. The driver who was driving at night with no headlights on and cleaned me up at a pedestrian crossing ruined my life. I would have died had my accident not happened two minutes by road from one of Sydney’s biggest hospitals, and the effects on my body, relationships, life and career continue to this day, 30 years later. In fact, I still have ground glass in my scalp… 😦

      PLEASE, if she doesn’t care about her own safety, try to make her see what she could be doing to someone else. It’s that important.

      1. Yeah, I know someone who’s been on disability since being hit by a car 16 years ago. The painkillers she’s had to take have affected her memory and brain function (I didn’t know her back then but I know someone who did very well). She should have lost her leg.

        One of my earliest jobs involved pushing fully loaded trolleys around. Like, sometimes they were nearly four times my weight. People were constantly wandering in front of them like they had no knowledge of basic physics and I’d have to wrench them backwards to try to avoid hitting anyone. It gave me a major appreciation of how hard it is to stop something like a car quickly in an emergency. It’s a pity most people don’t have access to somewhere they can push their car up to various speeds and then try to stop as fast as possible, just to see how far they travel before they stop moving – and that’s if you react immediately.

      2. I personally avoid the term “accident” to describe crashes and collisions. It’s telling that people are inclined to use a responsibility-denying term by default to describe events that are usually avoidable. “Negligent” would usually be a more accurate term.

        1. Yeah it’s weird how forgiving our society is towards people who maim/kill others with cars. Certainly some car accidents really are just sad awful unavoidable accidents, but so many of them are not. They’re kind of the equivalent of saying that guys will just run around blindfolded with chainsaws and occasionally a passer by gets cut in half and that’s just how it is. What a sad accident, who could have foreseen than running blindfold with chainsaws was dangerous? We tend to treat dangerous drivers like weather, and not like the reckless irresponsible pratts that they actually are.

          1. Yeah, a teenaged new driver in Queensland, Australia has just avoided jail time despite killing a man and injuring another person because she was checking google maps on her phone while driving. She was caught five months later doing the exact same thing and got fined. She’d also been involved in a another crash and fled the scene of that.

            Her sentencing for killing a buy with her car resulted in 30 months jail but with the sentence suspended so she doesn’t have to do any time, and loss of license for three years. That’s it. It’s horrifying.

        2. Some police departments around me have started using the word “incident” instead of “accident”, partly for that reason.

    2. I like this (although I agree it probably won’t work). When he was teaching me to drive, my Dad told me that it’s my responsibility as a driver not just to obey the laws, but actually to actively protect the people around me, especially pedestrians, motorcyclists, etc. He taught me to be not just a defensive driver, but a protective driver. We should all be protective drivers.

    3. Even that I doubt would have much effect; I’ve tried that angle before with the bad driver in my life, a dear friend who I now refuse to drive anywhere with. No matter how much you point out how bad other drivers are, he remained convinced that he was so awesome at driving he could still avoid them, even while checking his phone and fiddling with the radio and playing with the dog in the backseat. The Best Driver Ever identity was so firmly set in his mind that even common sense like “other people do dumb stuff sometimes” couldn’t shake it. We watched a few episodes of Canada’s Worst Driver too, and his bad-driving blindness lead to some glaring cases of hypocrisy. He could point out the flaws in their driving and make fun of them for it, but insisted that he didn’t do whatever they did or he did it safely — for example, when they texted while driving it was obviously stupid, but he was Really Good At It, you see, so it wasn’t dangerous for him. When they never signalled it was obviously a recipe for a collision, but he ALWAYS signalled so when I said that I have never once seen him do it then I must be wrong. I find bad drivers in general tend to be pretty convinced that they are amazing, which might be why they are still so bad; why waste time practising and learning new habits and working on your driving skills if you’re already fantastic at it?

  15. When an elderly parent drives like this, consensus is that it is time to take the keys away.

    No one should drive this way.

    This person is not safe. Do not get in the car and do not marry until the issue of unsafe driving and all the other issues that are rolling along with it have been dealt with, seriously and for the long term.

  16. I was guilty of using my phone as a GPS. That’s why I was so happy when my parents bought me my own GPS to hang up and had voice directions. It’s safer knowing where your going when you have voice directions than being forced to eye your phone.

    I think you should have a long hard thought about whether to stay with such a reckless woman.

  17. Your fiancee’s driving habits, to me, are a scary indication of possible negative personality traits (indifference to other people’s well being, ability to delude self that self is infallible, etc.) but equally as worrying is the fact that she has blown off your attempts to talk to her about it. Someone who doesn’t listen to your concerns unless they find them valid by their own standards is someone who makes a bad life partner. (As a comparison: “I’m not going to help clean the house ever, because I think living in a dirty house is fine. If you care about cleaning, you do it” is an actual example encountered by my very unlucky-in-love best friend).

    It sounds like perhaps you’ve done a lot of gentle hinting, but not a serious sit-down conversation where you lay out in full, honest detail exactly how bad and unsafe she is behind the wheel, and exactly how uncomfortable and unsafe it makes you feel. If so, please do that now. Her response to that sort of conversation will tell you a lot about the kind of person she is when it comes to working out conflicts and listening to the concerns of loved ones.

    My partner was a dangerous driver (in my opinion) when we first met. Mostly speeding and tailgating issues. I am sensitive to such things because I was in a really serious car accident as a small child – I still get nightmares about it. We had been together a couple of months when I talked to him about it, and his initial reaction was, “I’m sure I’m a good driver! I’m safe! Your fears are ill-founded!” but halfway through trying to explain to me why I shouldn’t be afraid, he stopped, and apologized. He realized (on his own!) that when a person you love fears for their safety, *that* is what matters – not the objective validity of the fears. It didn’t matter whether or not he thought he was a good driver. It didn’t even matter whether he was right about it. What mattered is that the thing he was doing was making me terrified and uncomfortable. That was more important to him than continuing to drive fast, and more important to him than being right, so he stopped doing it. Immediately. And checked in periodically to make sure I felt safe with his driving. That is how a loving, respectful partner responds to such situations.

    Telling someone their fears are not factually sound is just another way of telling the person your feelings are less important to them than continuing to do whatever they want.

    1. Agreed on the serious, sit down conversation; I was wondering how much “hinting” LW has done and how much straightforward, honest talking LW has done. “Gentle hinting” it not appropriate for this type of situation. Talking to her like you are both adults, while not guaranteed to work, is definitely called for. Perhaps before you get into the car with her? Because if she is a terrible driver already, raging and being angry at you is not likely to improve her driving.

      1. It’s been gentle hinting because that has always worked for correcting something in our relationship before. We’ve never had an issue like this and it was only recently that I saw her driving in person.

  18. Just in case everything already covered isn’t enough — and heaven knows it should be — here’s one more thing for the LW to think about: Someday this woman is going to do serious harm to others. It’s entirely possible that she’ll be sued for damages. As her spouse, your assets are not separate from hers and are not protected. Do you want to attach your assets to her liability? Marriage is many things, but one of the most important from a purely practical point of view is that it’s a business relationship. She IS going to do some major harm some day; given her behavior, it’s just a matter of time. Do you want shared fiscal responsibility? Because you’re about to sign up for it.

  19. My father is, 95% of the time, an excellent driver. But when he gets angry, he starts driving really, really fast, cornering fast, basically taking out his anger through his driving. He gets even angrier if you point it out to him, part of the reason I don’t talk to him much anymore and why I definitely don’t drive with him if I can help it. If the person you’re driving with can’t handle an observation about their driving, they are putting you in danger at the expense of their self-image.

  20. Reminds me of a row I had with a friend who did the drink and drive thing. Or smoke pot and drive. He insisted it’s his business, I told him he’s endangering others. When I took his keys once he threw a major tantrum and threatened to beat me up. Friendship closed. And he did not get the keys back.

    As for the texting etc. It’s illegal. End of discussion. With safety distance you can always discuss how much it actually was/is, but with phone in hand there is no discussion. Be legal or face the cops. Discussion over.

    1. Now I’m imagining you dropping his keys at the local police station and cheerfully telling him he can have them back if he makes a good-enough case to the cops there.

  21. Delurking just to say that sometimes shocking images work well to show a person how stupidly reckless some behaviours on the car are.

    The Spanish Direccion General de Trafico (General Transit Office) has a tradition of showing advertisements on TV with a lot of shock value. I’ll attach a youtube link with a compilation of several of those adds, but be careful if you can be triggered by those images. The people who need to see these images are the people who engage into this kind of dangerous driving, not victims. So please, do not watch it if you have been on the receiving end of reckless driving.

    At 2:40, this add in particular is about “acts of love”, keeping your loved ones from engaging into highly dangerous actions. Others are much worse.

    *******MODERATOR NOTE: LINK REDACTED People can search for it if they like, I don’t want it embedded here. Thank you! /MODERATOR************

    Also commenting that while these adds worked to a certain degree, the driving license-per-points has had a bigger effect reducing the number of traffic deaths.

    Captain, i perfectly understand if you decide to remove this post, i just intend it to be helpful. Spanish administration also has been under heavy media fire because of these commercials, and i can see their point… but if at least one person decides to change their driving habits because of the shocking images, i think it’s worth it.

    1. We’ve had some pretty shocking ones in New Zealand too for various aspects of driving like speeding (“the faster you go the bigger the mess”) and drink driving (“if you drink then drive you’re a bloody idiot”/”stop a mate from driving drunk? legend”). The more recent DUI ones have gone a different route but they’ve definitely had some very memorable ads.

  22. LW might like to try getting a third opinion on the driving. I mean, obviously Fiancée’s illegal and unsafe, but a third party might bring home to Fiancée that it’s not just LW’s opinion.

    So, LW could say something like: Your driving! It sucks like a hoover! And when Fiancée disagrees, suggest something like, Okay, then, let’s go for a drive with a driving instructor, preferably, or other sensible and trusted friend or associate of the couple, and see if he/she has any comments about your driving. Video the process if possible, but say nothing during it. It would cost LW the driving instructor’s regular rate but I think if the money were available for this, it would be money well spent. It might work.

    If you have to get a professional’s evidence to convince Fiancée that she’s doing something illegal, though… it might be more efficient to cut to the chase and break up.

  23. Unless you have been involved, on either side actually, of a terrible accident it is difficult to comprehend how life altering it can be. My father was very nearly killed riding a bicycle by a motorist who just wasn’t quite paying attention. And, as it happens, I once hit a child with my car. The only thing, literally, that saved his life was the fact I was not speeding and was fully alert. I was lucky enough to realise something was wrong in advance and slow down. I don’t know how I could have lived with the guilt if I had killed someone. Believe me, no pre-accident fight can be as awful as being on the other side of this conversation. That’s what you are risking.

  24. LW, I’m really sorry. This is a difficult situation. I think it’s time to be more direct and less sensitive to her feelings. This really isn’t about her wants as much as it’s about potentially saving lives. By spelling out the actual risks maybe she’ll realize what she’s risking. I hope so. But I don’t count on it.

    If I’m being harsh it’s because this one is close to home for me. A friend of mine, make that a chosen sibling, had a dad who’d drink and drive. He got caught, went to jail, did it again. Rinse and repeat. No amount of trying to be sensitive to his feelings made a difference. I recognize the difference with him being an alcoholic, but the basic premise of driving unsafely still apply. I’ve seen it up close, the worrying about if he’s gonna hit someone, if he’s safe. I had to ride with him once when my car got damaged and it was terrifying. I don’t wish it on anyone and I’m so sorry if you know what I’m talking about.

    In my case we were all ready to call the cops on him if he drove again. I’m not saying that you shold do that. But if you do: it’s not a betrail. It’s about saving lives. This is bigger than her.

  25. in addition to all the extremely valid points that have already been made…SHE USES *TUMBLR* WHILE DRIVING?! I mean, texting/email-checking is illegal & dangerous (as is excessive GPS consultation) but at least I can understand the rationale behind that behavior, however misguided–“let me tell them we’re on our way,” “I need to check what time it starts,” etc. but tumblr is purely for entertainment/distraction, & there is absolutely no reason to even think about doing it while behind the wheel.

    I’m not defending the other stuff; it’s just that I’m appalled by how egregious the tumbling is. it’s the difference between “my partner won’t do any household cleaning no matter how much I plead” (totally not okay) & “partner won’t clean & also intentionally pours syrup & Cheerio crumbs all over the floor each day because they think it’s ‘fun'” (totally not okay+so inexplicable as to be alarming).

    …ugh. LW, I’m sure a lot of this is hard to take, but I hope the consensus here provides you with the ammunition you need to address this–even if the solution means reevaluating your relationship. I too question whether someone who’s so recklessly selfish (& apparently delusional!) could ever be a supportive long-term partner.

    1. Gah, I was startled by that too. Everything else one could justify (incorrectly, but it could be done), but for chrissakes, TUMBLR?!?

  26. Am I the only one who gets a bad vibe reading “she’s possible the worst driver in the world” and the LW writing “I’m an excellent driver”?
    If someone told me “your driving totally sucks, but I’m really good at driving” I guess I would react defensive. Especially if it was a male boyfriend (I don’t know if the LW is).

    Her driving sounds really terrible, and I also hate being in a car with someone who is driving dangerously. The captain’s advice is good as always.
    But I think it’s important to not make this argument into “your driving sucks while I’m a really good driver”(possible implication: I should be driving but you not) but “your driving is dangerous because X, Y and Z and you need to (take lessons, …) to get better at it”.

    1. You’re not the only one. It mayyyy be objectively true that the LW is an excellent driver, but driving is such a lightning rod for existing power imbalance or trust issues, so it’s hard to read. When I read the letter I thought about my friend whose ex (who I’ve never met) seemed to have negged him in a thousand different ways. He gave me rides on a regular basis and one day I remarked how consistently comfortable and safe I felt with him behind the wheel. He reacted with surprise, saying that his ex had told him he was a terrible driver. This made no sense to me until I remembered that she also told him he had a terrible fashion sense, that he wasn’t masculine enough, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

      So, there is that. I kind of wish the LW hadn’t brought up his/her own driving abilities, because the case against the LW’s fiance stands for itself: he/she has a terrible track record and dangerous habits, not to mention a disturbing disregard for LW’s trust and comfort.

    2. Agreed – LW, any comment on your own driving ability (other than maybe “I took this driving course and it was really excellent, it taught me [specific skills].”) has no place in this conversation. Because it is completely irrelevant how good you are as a driver – as long as she’s driving safely (and CA gave a really good metric for determining that), she’s sufficiently competent to drive, no matter if she’s better or worse than you at it. The point of this conversation isn’t to be right, it’s to not be scared out of your wits whenever she’s behind the wheel whether or not you’re in the car with her.

    3. I have never brought up my own driving beyond, when she expressed concern about my inexperience driving and her worry I might have trouble when I get my license, saying “I’ve taken defensive driving. It cost a lot of money, but it was very, very worth it.”

      I only brought it up the way I did in the letter because I was worried I would get into too many words if I let myself elaborate (I tend towards long-windedness) to try and, short-handedly say “I know good driving, and this ain’t it.”

      1. I don’t believe anyone who is sure they are an excellent driver, though, because of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Very, very few people have an accurate notion of the quality of their own driving.

        That includes me. I constantly remind myself to be super-careful because pretty much no one is as good behind the wheel as they think they are, me along with everyone else.

        1. Very much this. Anybody who actually brags about being a good driver (so not the LW who only brought it up when it was relevant, but many people I know who will bring up their own skill at driving to talk about how awesome they are as soon as they get a chance) I found are always seriously over-estimating their skills. Like my best friend, who is so proud of being a good driver that she brings it up whenever the subject of driving comes along, despite the fact that she’s only driven a couple of times when her dad has time to take her out for practice, and she has yet to try for her license. Or my ex boyfriend, who whenever I mentioned that I was taking a driving lesson the next day so I couldn’t stay out late, would start talking about how he’s been driving (illegally) since he was a little kid, and he’d give me “pointers” like I only needed to watch the car in front of me instead of looking around a lot and I didn’t need to check my blind spots because other people would stay out of them or get out of the way should I change lanes. I haven’t been driving for very long so I’m still pretty nervous about it and I don’t think I’m that great, since driving is one of those things you need a lot of practice at, but i hope that if I ever start bragging about being a good driver I take a very serious look at my skills and figure out if I actually am good (in which case I should still stop bragging, because bragging is not cool) or if I am just getting comfortable in bad habits.

  27. Aargh, tumblr? Really? I mean, the texting is wrong, bad, criminal and unacceptable, but I at least get how one could get some kind of fixation in one’s brain about being tied to your phone, how that text might be really urgent, oh shit, what if I don’t pay attention to it RIGHT NOW and it turns out it was life or death? I can see how that might be hard to break, although YOU HAVE TO. RIGHT NOW. But just noodling around on TUMBLR? How does one begin to justify that to oneself?

  28. This might be a little off-topic, but does anyone know of ways to alert cops and such to people like this? I know a guy who, according to mutual friends, WATCHES TELEVISION ON HIS PHONE while driving. They’re pretty non-confrontational, so their action has been to just not ever get in the car with him again, but this just triggers my SOMETHING IS WRONG IN THE WORLD reflex, I guess.

    1. I would contact your local cops as ask them for advice. It will vary by location if there’s anything they can do, or what evidence they would need to be able to act. If you have an anonymous hotline you could probably even get “hypothetical” advice without committing to a formal report straight away.

  29. Oddly relevant: I was talking with my partner R the other day about a new cat we accidentally acquired, who has this habit of peeing on bundles of clothing. R has another cat with pee issues, but patience and room and kindness helped anxious!cat get past that. New!cat, though, doesn’t see that peeing on clothing is an issue, so all the sensitivity and kindness and such won’t do anything for him.

    Being sensitive to the needs of someone who legit doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong when they really really are is a waste of time at best. They won’t see someone being patient while they try to change, they’ll see confirmation that they’re not doing anything wrong in the first place.

  30. 1) If her driving is that objectively bad and she doesn’t realize it? I think the aggressive options the Captain laid out are really the only options. Chats over coffee and muffins aren’t going to fix that kid of self-centeredness.

    2) Hello from someone whose partner hates her driving! I like to think I’m a safe and defensive driver (I keep good following distance, I always use my signals, etc…), but my husband hates how “zoomy” I am and doesn’t like how long I wait to brake. I was pretty defensive about this for a while, especially when he’d approach his concerns by whining. When he was finally straight with me, things clicked a bit better and I started being more considerate.

    I’m still “zoomy”, but I’m much more mindful of my braking because he finally said to me: “Listen–you brake way too late. Even if your tires were in great condition, which they aren’t, or your brakes weren’t squeaking, which they are, you can’t trust people around you to brake at the same rate. There are too many other factors out of your control, and I really don’t want you to die. Please.”

    If my driving was worse, but I still felt about it like I do now? It would take drastic measures for me to listen, and not think whoever was complaining was just a whiner. Stop riding with her, even if it means a financial hardship for you. That money is worth your (and her, and other people’s) life.

  31. While I understand that a lot of people need to drive, I’ve never understood why nearly everyone feels that they are absolutely entitled to pilot a multi-ton speeding metal beast packed with explosive liquids regardless of their skill or ability to do so.

    I am a terrible driver. The biggest thing that makes me a terrible driver is that when I am confronted by something that I dislike or am frightened by, I shut down and an unable to problem solve for several minutes. In walking-around-on-my-feet world, this anxiety is sort of annoying but I can work through it. In driving-in-a-crowded-parkinglot-or-freeway world, this will hurt people and rip families apart.

    Luckily I’m in a big city, where there is lots of transit. I get to read books on my way to work instead of enraging my fellow humans and working myself into a nervous breakdown.

    1. Oh god, this. This is one of the reasons I am largely okay with not being able to drive.

      (I would still like to learn because it is a useful skillset, but the thought of regularly driving… I do not want to drive, driving is that thing where you get on the road with other people and someone does a dangerous stupid thing and you need to react quickly and safely OR ELSE.)

      1. “driving is that thing where you get on the road with other people and someone does a dangerous stupid thing and you need to react quickly and safely OR ELSE.”

        This is very much how I feel about it, too. I got very nearly to the point of being ready to go for my license, but needed more practice, and then… I had a lot of health problems and wasn’t getting enough practice to feel confident so I left it, and I left it so long my Learner’s Permit expired. I would like to be able to drive, for emergencies. Except that I feel that being able to drive in an emergency would require *even more* competence than driving in normal situations, so … yeah. There’s good public transport where we live, and I don’t have to worry about falling asleep on the tram.

    2. ahahahaha yes. My fight/flight/freeze response is to freeze, every time, no matter how drastic. If I can’t get under a table I’m already sitting at when an earthquake hits I don’t really want to know how I’d react to something unexpected suddenly being in front of my car. To be honest even the times I borrowed my sister’s scooter, while it was super convenient to be able to travel faster and easier than by bicycle, I still didn’t like to push my speed as high as I’m allowed to, and I haven’t seriously thought about saving to get my own. (I am currently licenced to ride one and had lessons, but I wouldn’t really trust myself on a busy main road.) The idea of driving a car just seems so dangerous if I don’t need to.

  32. Based on my own experience of training my father not to drive when he’s tired or use his phone and drive (some people might be able to do this safely, but he’s not one of them), here’s what I think: Make a list of specific driving behaviors that are dealbreakers for you: texting while driving, tailgating, failure to signal, whatever. Whenever she does one of these, say, “Your driving isn’t safe right now. Either stop doing what you’re doing, or pull over and let me out.” Don’t say, “You are a bad driver,” because no one, anywhere, in the history of time, is willing to admit that they are a bad driver. Say, “This piece of your driving is unsafe, and I won’t be in the car with you while it’s happening.” And stick to it. If she refuses to let you out of the car or stop, then refuse to get in the car with her next time, and tell her why.

    The point is, maybe her terrible reckless entitled driving stems from her being a terrible reckless entitled person; but telling her that SHE is terrible and reckless and entitled is not going to get her to change.

    Also, when she’s driving, stay calm. Don’t make agonized faces or shout “Watch out!” At best, that’ll piss her off; at worst, she’ll get anxious and/or defensive and drive much worse. (Also, it can be super passive-aggressive, and no one responds well to that.)

    1. Yes yes yes! It’s the bad driving version of that Jay Smooth video about having the “that thing you said was racist” conversation instead of the “you are a racist” conversation. Same principle!

      Also super yes to that last paragraph.

    2. That’s very practical advice. The calmer everyone is at the time the discussion happens, the better it’s likely to go.

      And it is really hard to drive with a flinchy passenger, even or especially if you do care about their feelings of safety.

      1. Gotta agree with this. I spoke to my mother about her abilities as a coach driver because whether she intended it or not, her “helpful” behavior stressed me out and made it difficult for me to focus (I have ADD as well). Astonishingly, shrieking “STOP SIGN!!” when the stop sign is thirty metres away is not conducive to good driving. She said she’d try to do better, but she’d still gasp for air every time I accelerated or had to make a left turn. Eventually, we simply agreed that she wasn’t allowed to be my coach driver, because our issues combined to make the situation unsafe for everyone involved.

  33. LW, I’m guessing that the strength of the responses & condemnation of your fiancé may not be what you were expecting/wanting to hear. Going from “how do I bring this up without hurting her feelings?” to “DTMFA!” is a pretty huge leap. Your fear that she may die someday in a car crash is not unreasonable. That may indeed happen to her. Or a stranger who’s unlucky enough to be on the road with her at the wrong time. Or you, your future children (if you have them), or the unlucky stranger’s children.

    The risk is so great that it’s worth a difficult conversation(s) — maybe she will live up to your best image of her and listen to you and be willing to change her behavior right away, maybe not, but it’s worth trying more than once. The Captain’s scripts are excellent; my only suggestion is do not try to bring up the topic for the first time while she’s driving or right before you get in her car. She’ll be more defensive, you’ll be more anxious because the dangerous behavior is happening right then, and if it does blow up into a big argument then being upset could make her driving even worse than usual which sounds really unsafe. I want you (and her!) to be safe.

    Maybe you can bring it up with her at a relatively neutral time, like over dinner or when you’re sitting on the couch after dinner. Tell her that you love her and you’re concerned about her. Focus on specific behaviors — the texting, the previous accidents — rather than general statements about bad driving. It might help to have relevant facts ready, like, is texting while driving illegal in your state? Is her insurance policy more expensive because of the accidents? It may also help to couch in terms of needing to pay more attention because of all those *other* bad drivers out there, you never know what people are going to do on the road so you have to always be on the alert. That might give her a little way to save face.

    If she’s absolutely unwilling to see reason on this, then you may need to do some hard thinking about what kind of relationship you want to have with someone who’s willing to risk her own life, yours, and the lives of random strangers rather than admit she’s wrong. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

  34. This is so familiar. I had a co-worker who was constantly criticising my driving when I drove, but when she drove she wouldn’t stop texting. Once I yelled when she drifted onto the shoulder, and after pulling back onto the road she looked at me and said “wow” as if I had done something wrong!

    1. Whoops, forgot to add: LW, if she won’t stop using her phone while she’s driving, just grab her phone out of her hand and toss it into the back seat. Or out the window.

      1. Yeah I don’t think so. What then? She will be angry that the phone’s gone, or surprised, or looking where it fell. That is not safe for the situation either. I’d rather ask her to let you out, than do anything unexpected while she (would) have to concentrate.

      2. I would caution against doing anything that makes the driver angry while they are driving. ESPECIALLY if they’re already a horrible driver. Angry people often get reckless and do stupid things.

  35. When I was a senior in high school, I rode to school with a guy who, no lie, drove his parents’ minivan like he was stunt driving a sports car in Fast and Furious. Speeding, tailgating, taking turns at high speeds don’t convey how dangerously this kid drove. I was literally terrified for my life every morning, and he thought he was a great driver, and that my reactions were hilarious. He was having fun.

    The end point came when, on the way to school one morning, he and a friend of his (who also drove dangerously), noticed that the car of a guy they held a grudge against was just ahead on the highway. They sped up, blocked him in, and attempted to run him off the road. This went on for several miles, with me screaming at this dude to stop. The guy they were, to be blunt, trying to kill, was a friend of mine. (not that I would have been any less pissed, but it added a while other level of terror for me.) Thankfully he was a good driver, and they didn’t succeed in running him off the road, but good god, my friend was lucky. They forced him to go up to 90 mph.

    I roundly cussed the dude and his friend out when we got to school, and never rode with him again. They thought what they did was hilarious, and laughed at how scared both I and my friend had been. I wish there’d been a cop on the highway that morning, or that I’d thought to call the cops myself. Both of them deserved to go to jail for that shit.

    LW, your fiancé may not be maliciously trying to kill someone, but intent isn’t magic. The dudes in my story are lucky they didn’t kill anyone that day, and your fiancé has been lucky so far. But luck isn’t going to last forever, if she doesn’t change her driving habits.

  36. My friend Megan lost her dad in accident due to someone texting while driving, as you can see in the documentary linked by Captain Awkward. I have no patience for people texting while driving. No one is the magical person that can multi-task well enough to spend time on their phone while driving.

  37. Wow.
    Thing is, this is NOT about you and your needs. This is not “she’s mean to my family” or “she ignores my feelings” or some other issue that, while awful, basically affects you and your relationship only.

    This is about the innocent people who are very likely going to die or be severely disabled for the rest of their lives because your fiancee is checking Tumblr (FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!)

    You need to stand up in defense of those innocent lives. If I were you, I’d call the cops on her, slam the door and never see this person again. But then, I have a very hard time finding sympathy for someone who is A-OK with other people brutally suffering and dying because she is checking her email. Reckless driving is a crime. You are watching someone repeatedly commit crimes, and doing nothing is being complicit in it.

    Yes, I sound harsh. I happened to know 4 people killed by drunk/distracted drivers (including an 8th grade classmate), and yeah, still just a little angry about that pointless waste of human life. Your fiancee is on track to kill somebody, maybe even you. You have a responsibility to stand up and save innocent people from becoming victims.

    1. I’d say it’s the fiancee’s responsibility to drive safely. LW can’t control her behavior. If they could, she’d already be driving safely. The best LW can do is set boundaries around what they will and won’t accept while their a passenger and around what they will and won’t accept from a partner, and stick to them.

  38. You might try to frame this as “I am a nervous passenger” rather than “you are a terrible driver”. It can still be a hard line: because I am a nervous passenger I will not ride with you unless you stop X, Y, and Z and start A, B, and C.

    It is very hard for people to own that they are terrible drivers. And she doesn’t really need to own that, she just needs to stop driving like one.

    1. That might work, actually. I did mention that I’m very unused to BEING the passenger–I take public transit now and before that, I was the only driver in my circle of friends. I might try taking that tack as an opener, at least.

      1. Honestly, LW, I don’t think that’s a good tactic here. Because the problem is NOT that you are a nervous passenger and want her to do specific things to accommodate you while you’re in her car. The problem is that she is a dangerous driver, objectively, and that needs to change WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE IN THE CAR. It would not fix the problem if she stopped using her phone while driving you places, but continued to use it while driving by herself.

        Framing the issue as being about your nervousness is, fundamentally, dishonest. I know you said in other responses you have anxiety about raising issues with your partner, but this is a really important one and I think it’s critical that you be able to be honest with her about it — and that she react reasonably to that honesty — before tying yourself to her legally and financially in marriage.

        I’d also just note that if you start by framing it as being about you being a nervous passenger, that’s likely going to color all of your future conversations about it. Because if/when you express concern about her driving being objectively dangerous, her response is very likely to be some variation on “you’re just a nervous passenger, you said so yourself.”

    2. That might be an easier conversation but the LW doesn’t need to take responsibility for the badness here. This isn’t an ambiguous “you drive a bit more aggressively than I like” situation. This is someone on tumblr. While driving. Who has had accidents before, yet still thinks she’s not doing anything wrong.

      I don’t think it’s a great idea to make other people’s bad behaviour all about how actually you’re just sensitive and they need to be careful of your nervousness. Because this isn’t LWs fault and she/he shouldn’t have to take the blame just to tiptoe around his/her fiancée’s possible hurt feelings.

  39. Dear LW,

    I’m just delurking here to say a few things.

    I totally understand your anxiety about confronting your fiancee, given that you’ve been in abusive relationships! Oh man, the first time you really need to directly talk to someone in a new, healthy relationship is terrifying! (Especially when it’s about such a hot button issue).

    But I’ll take your word that this is inexplicably strange behavior for your fiancee – heck, I also am highly concerned about other people’s behavior and am a terrible driver because of my anxiety (I am lucky enough that I have ways to get around other than driving, no matter how much crap my terrible abusive family gives me over it). So, my suggestion is to take a few deep breaths (don’t be angry and or panicked at you – you are trying to get the courage to do something hard that is also the right thing about someone you care about! That is hard! It probably feels like the world is going to end if you talk to her or if you don’t, and that is stressful.

    I’d sit down with her and, like others have suggested, and say “Hey, I have seen you exhibit x, y, and z dangerous behaviors while driving, and they make me very anxious and concerned.” Or maybe you can write her a letter to work out what you want to say, so you can revise and work on it ahead of time. Yeah, it might result in a fight (fights are freaking terrifying and I hate them, so you are not alone on that), but a fight will end in one way or another – either your fiancee recognizes that you are anxious and upset (straight out) and agrees to change her behavior or she doesn’t and you decide what you do from there. It’s incredibly difficult to work up the courage to say something straight out, but I really, really do think you can do it, because you clearly care about your fiancee and want the situation to change. So please take care of yourself, do what you need to do to make you feel like you can (drink some tea! Listen to 80’s training montage music! Rehearse your speech! Tell your fiancee you need to have a hard/difficult/scary conversation and ask her for a long hug! Whatever you need), and then talk to her. Take a deep breath, use your words, and be honest – it will be okay. Dude, you are resilient! You have gotten away from abusive relationships! You are moving countries! That takes a lot of courage – if you can do that, you can do this. I think you can.

    Good luck, LW,


  40. A couple of days ago was the year anniversary of the vehicular murder of a 3 year old little boy in a parking lot by some asshole who was texting on her phone while backing out in her SUV. He was standing against the car while his dad was putting his sister in the back of the car and this woman who thought Facebook was more important than looking where she was fucking going CRUSHED HIM TO DEATH with her car.

    Would you put a child *in* the car with your fiancee? How about your own (possible/hypothetical) children, cousin, beloved pets, etc? I’m guessing not. Things need to change, or it’s non-negotiable- she should not be driving either.

    Do you have friends who might be willing to help you with rides until you can drive again? There are some delivery services that can help you if you have the money. And taking the bus, walking or bicycling (if possible- not sure if this is an injury that prevents you from driving).

    If you HAVE to drive with her, I suggest the following:

    I’d say, as a rule, keep the phone in the trunk. This will keep her from fishing it out at a stop light “just for a second.”

    If you are with her and NEED navigation, YOU hold the phone if you need to use it for GPS purposes (I find this is handy anyway, just in case you need to alter direction).

    If she’s truly incorrigible, I suggest leaving the phone at home or putting a lock on the phone that only you have.

    I think that this is a very serious problem, and am amazed that this hasn’t been more of an issue in your relationship. Even if she has some sort of medical issue or mental health problem that makes driving hard (ie: she needs glasses but you have no money or she has a medical issue that requires medication that interferes with driving), then she needs to address that as well. Sometimes, people should not be driving.

    If she’s simply being a huge, self-involved asshole, then maybe that isn’t just a driving thing. I hope not, but it seems to me that a person who doesn’t care if she creates a huge pile-up or smashes into someone or can’t be bothered to stop using the phone while she is driving around with a several-thousand-pound machine at freeway speeds, then SHE SHOULD NOT BE DRIVING, and probably DOES NOT CARE about other people in other ways too. Do you want to be with someone this self-centered? Do you honestly think that this isn’t some undercurrent in other areas of your life together? I would say, tread carefully. Make the engagement a longer one and make absolutely sure that you’re willing to marry someone who is so blithe about putting both of you at risk of death or injury so often.

    1. Well, I hadn’t observed her driving until recently. We’re in the process of making a long distance relationship a living together relationship. We fit together perfectly in EVERY single way. This is a very out of character thing for her–she’s normally overly invested in making sure everyone else is happy and safe. I honestly think she thinks this is normal driving behaviour. Her parents taught her to drive and, from the sounds of things, they have the same habits as her. She’s THE driver in her circle of people. I’m not sure she’s ever been a passenger with a safe driver, to be honest. I don’t think she ever took driver’s ed.

      And no, I wouldn’t let a child in the car with her. Ever.

      1. From what you’ve said, it sounds like you have not lived with this person in the long term due to being primarily long distance. You may want to take this driving behavior as a caution. People do not always behave the same way when a long-distance partner visits for the short term and when a partner moves in permanently. This seems out of character for her now, but it’s quite a large and significant red flag, and red flags tend to come in clusters. As you move through the process of living together, you may want to keep on the lookout for red flags related to this behavior, e.g. recklessness and endangerment of others in other areas of her life.

      2. LW, if you wouldn’t let a child in the car with her – don’t get in the car with here. Seriously. Make it very, very clear to her that you are not comfortable with her driving, that you’re scared for your life, that you’re scared for others’ lives and that you’ll not get in the car with her unless she agrees to X,Y, and Z. And then get out of the car immediately if she breaks the conditions.

        My high school boyfriend had a stepdad that would just complain and complain about his wife’s driving (and proudly state that he would never get in the car with her driving) but had no problem with his son and stepson getting in the car with her. Luckily, she was a perfectly good driver – but all I could think was that he wasn’t willing to risk his own life, but he was willing to risk the lives of his children? The thing was, they’d built their lives around being a 2-car family at that point and there wasn’t any way of easily changing that.

        You need to speak to her now, or your life is going to be built around her driving or being a 2-car household with a terrible driver and a few years from now you’ll end up making compromises you’d never thought you make because it’ll be the only way to make your lives work.

      3. It’s really the worst when entire families have convinced themselves that something like this is OK. I think it can – as hard to believe as it may be – create a bubble where everyone assures each other that they’re absolutely fine. Also, a further question: Is it possible that the driving culture in your new country is generally very risk prone? I’m not trying to be an asshole here, but there are certain countries where I feel much less safe on the road than in others. (And certain regions in my own country are infamous for drunk driving).
        I think there’s no other way than refusing to get into the car with her until she adjusts here behavior. You have to make her understand you’re serious. Maybe also show her your letter and the responses here. I think in this case it could really be helpful for her to see the reactions of third parties to her behavior.

      4. It may be worth thinking about the culture of her family. There are lots of good letters here about entering a family with a different vibe than yours. I agree with 30ish. If everyone is fine with driving poorly that’s better to know now. If they have the same habits the scary, dangerous stuff doesn’t end with your fiancé. It’s especially important to consider this if you’re moving to their country since you’ll be on their home turf.

      5. “We fit together perfectly in EVERY single way.”

        Except you don’t feel safe bringing up a major issue with her. That’s… really not perfect at all, that’s a big problem and it’s not even all or mostly about the driving.

  41. I have good news for you, LW: you can 100% have a conversation about your partner’s driving without it being an argument. I have had these conversations multiple times. And since you and your partner have long-term plans with each other, it’s fair to think that you’re probably going to have an argument eventually. Gentle hints will not solve every problem, as this has shown, and so if your discussions with your partner do turn into arguments, it will still be a good and useful thing – you will learn what it’s like when the two of you fight, what your buttons are etc. Arguing and fighting is usually a terrible thing (enjoying a screaming match with a partner is a red flag for me), but arguments happen when a boundary is pushed, and if you’re going to be sharing your life with this person then some boundaries are going to change in your lives, and I think it would be great if they were not always yours.

    (Both of these incidents happened in the car, right after some unsafe driving had happened. I know that a lot of people have cautioned against this in case it starts a fight/distracts your partner further, and that’s definitely a real concern. But if you think that you can have a talk right when the unsafe driving is/has happened, then I find that it has more impact than having it ten minutes later when you’ve finished your journey. By then, the driver has mostly forgotten the event because they’re used to them happening, and it’s easier for them to interpret genuine, I-feared-for-my-life concern as an overreaction. You know your partner better than we do, and so you’re the best judge as to whether in the car/on the spot discussions is a good idea or a bad one.)

    Incident one: using relateable inconveniences to deter shitty driving habits.
    I have a friend who is several years younger than me, and so when she got her Ps I had already been driving for several years. And she would break late and fast at traffic lights. And her first car was a bit of a bomb. I had told her on a previous car ride that she should brake sooner, and she had replied with “No, it’s fine. See? I stopped the right distance away from the car in front,” and the other passenger agreed and then told me off of trying to ‘spook’ our friend. So the next time I was driving with my friend and this happened, I told her that I thought something had rolled off her back seat as a result of the jolt and to remember to check for it when we got out, and then I said “It’s a pain in the butt, really, but I’ve had food slide off the passenger seat and spill everywhere. And if you brake late there’s no guarantee that the car behind you is paying attention to anything more than your tail lights, so you don’t want to have your stuff spill everywhere AND get read ended, right?”

    I saw that what I was saying was sinking in that time, and I think it’s because people are far more likely to believe that their coffee might slosh out of the travel mug and ruin their pants than that they’re going to kill someone with their driving. But ruining pants with hot coffee is still a thing to avoid, and so it can prompt people to alter behaviours without falling into the “But it’s not like I’ve killed anyone yet!” hole.

    Incident two: being direct and emotionally honest when an incident occurs.
    A lot of the time we get told to downplay our emotions out of some sense of decorum, and so letting them show in times of conflict can be read as manipulative acting. So this is a very loaded thing to do and I’m not encouraging you to have scared feelings AT your partner, just that you don’t hide them away. For me, this just means putting my internal monologue out there. I’ll quit self-censoring and worrying so much about the driver’s feelings, because I’m having a lot of feelings about safety and they’re important, too.

    I have a friend who was driving me home, and she got a phone call and answered it, and had to turn around a corner while driving. Aware that she only had two hands (one on the wheel and one on the phone) she looked over to me and casually asked “Hey tawg, can you drop us down a gear when I put the clutch in?” to which I replied “NO, ARE YOU SERIOUS?” and she laughed (because she did not think this was a big deal at all, my reaction was silly and overblown to her) and said “Well, I don’t want us to stall, so…” And then we were going around the corner, and she put the clutch in, and I changed gears more out of surprise that it was happening than anything else. “See? That wasn’t so bad!” “FRIEND, HANG UP AND PUT BOTH HANDS ON THE WHEEL PLEASE.” She saw that I was uncomfortable/scared, and so she ended the call and we were able to have a less allcaps-y conversation about unsafe driving habits on the way home.

    I’ve had panic attacks in cars over things that were making me uncomfortable, and while I certainly do not recommend it as a fun way to spend a drive, it has been very effective in communicating that I am very not-happy with this thing going on, and that there is a pretty simple way to fix my discomfort. Also, if you are honest with your emotions in a very direct way and your partner dismisses it? That’s going to be a red flag. But when you’re being vague and gently nudging, it can be hard to gauge how much your partner is understanding that this is a real issue.

  42. It might be helpful to think about how risk is viewed where the LW’s fiancee lives. Not that anything changes the actual risks of bad driving behaviours, or the laws of physics, but different places have very different attitudes. In places with more fatalistic culture, people may feel that things will just happen, whether or not you do anything to prevent them. This means that others may not have pulled the fiancee up on her driving already, and it may not be seen as awful to drive like she does.

    So… that’s even more reason for the LW to be very neutral, and not take the ‘you are a bad person because you take driving risks’ approach. The approach might be, ‘you may not know this, but evidence from many countries shows it’s a fact that x, y, z driving behaviours make it more likely to kill someone or be killed. Because I don’t want you to be maimed, killed, or be responsible for anyone’s injury, it’s very important to me that you find ways to not do these things any more. Also, if you come to my country and do x,y, or z, you will get arrested very soon, and obviously I don’t want that. Instead, doing a, b, and c – and a defensive driving course – will make it much more likely that you don’t get injured and neither does anyone else. Let’s talk about how you can start making these changes’. And repeat, until the message gets through. You can do this, LW, and it might be easier than you think.

  43. Please understand driving a car as operating a large weapon, at extremely high speed, in the middle and hundreds of people also operating weapons at high speed. There is no excuse to ever take your eyes off of what you and others around you are doing.

  44. Wow. Awkward and really freaking uncomfortable moment of clarity this gave me.

    “Bad driving” isn’t the issue, though come to think of it there are some of the same driving issues involved here too.

    But holy shit do I ever need to re-think All The Things for my own version of “I need certain things fixed, because it’s not just the law, it’s a good idea!”

    This is going to be really, really fucking hard. But really, really fucking necessary.

    Thanks, Cap’n. :/

  45. Oh wow, scary! LW, I have a similar, though not quite as bad from the sounds of it, situation with my beloved. She is an admitted bad and distracted driver, but she doesn’t think it’s a big deal because she dislikes driving and doesn’t care about it.

    I’ve spoken to her about it and explained kindly but firmly that it’s not just about her own feelings about driving, it’s an actual physical hazard to herself and everyone around her, but she still seems unconcerned. It’s a weird blind spot, because she’s generally a very caring, considerate person, almost to a fault in many circumstances. When I spoke to her about her driving being frightening she held firm on her belief that her driving ability is unimportant, but despite disagreeing with me about the severity of the problem she cared enough about my feelings to change a few things:

    First, she makes a point of driving more carefully when I’m in the car with her as a passenger. If she forgets to be careful or gets distracted by technology, I remind her gently and she usually apologizes and smartens up. (I also offer to type texts for her if she receives a message while driving, and I handle the GPS.)

    Second, because a big part of the issue is that she dislikes driving and doesn’t feel it’s worth her attention, I volunteered to “chauffeur” her around whenever possible, and we’re planning our lives so that she has to do minimal driving. I’m happy with that solution because I actually enjoy driving and I’m a careful driver, and it works for us for the most part. She has also slowed down quite a bit after having to pay a significant number of speeding tickets last year, and if nothing else the financial hit seems to have made an impact. We’re enrolling in a drivers training course together in the spring, which I hope will help – completion of a drivers training course in my area lowers one’s insurance costs quite a bit, which is another good motivator.

    We’ve also decided on a new vehicle to purchase soon that will have bluetooth built in. I think it’ll help her feel less stressed out about deciding between missing important work calls and driving dangerously with a phone in her hand. (Not that bluetooth is a perfect solution, but I think it’s much better.)

    It’s not ideal, because I think she ought to realize that driving carefully is worth doing for its own sake – cars are dangerous! – but since I can’t force her to change her mind about that, I’m happy to settle for her driving carefully and driving less for my sake.

  46. Um, i don’t think anyones brought this up yet, it’s an idea for dealing with the phone, at least. When my family drives, the driver’s phone goes to the passenger, who answers all calls and messages for the driver. If the person wants to ride shotgun and not in the back, they get to be the secretary, as well as the person who uses the GPS or reads the map.

    as for her horrid driving, i second the idea of a third party. That was the only thing that made my sister realize how bad her driving was. We borrow a rig from a friend for trailering our horses on occasion and the friend refuses to let my sister use it because she tailgates, which you can’t when driving a trailer.

    best of luck approaching the fiance, that’s not going to be an easy talk.

  47. LW, I’m someone else living with long term health problems as the result of a car accident, so this is a big red button for me. I will not be a passenger in a car with a distracted or aggressive driver (which includes tailgating). I regard it as a matter of life or death – for myself, for them, for others on the road – which it so easily can be. As others have said, if she is distracted, not only is she much more likely to screw up (changing lanes without consiously noticing = Yikes!) but she will have less/no time to react to the mistakes of others. To the learner driver making a mistake, to the child or drunk pedestrian, or the wobbly/without lights cyclist – she could kill any one of these people, plus herself and any passengers. Any time you are driving, you are in charge of a tonne of metal moving at speed, and that always deserves your full attention, no matter how experienced you are or how good you think you are.

    Really, you must deal with this before you commit any further. Before you move in together, let alone set a wedding date. Find out if you can resolve conflict between you (and this needs raising no matter how much you are afraid of conflict), and if she is willing to take your and her safety seriously. If she takes the law seriously. Just how much of an entitled asshole she is and whether she is willing to work to improve. Loving someone does not mean never criticising them. No one is even close to perfect, and we all need to work to be better.

  48. I agree with what everyone else has said, but the other thing that popped into my mind was –

    I don’t know exactly what your situation is, but even if you don’t have a license, if you have a permit you can generally drive with a licensed driver in the car next to you (with some restrictions). Is that a possibility for you, as an alternative to taking the bus everywhere etc?

    I’m not saying you don’t need to have that conversation, because you do, but… is that an additional solution for the moment?

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