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Watch the road, bro.
The tendency of characters in TV shows or movies who are driving to spend a dangerously long time looking at the person in the passenger seat, rather than out the windshield (or ever at the rear-view mirror, which is almost always gone).
This trope is nearly ubiquitous, so use this section to list subversions
and lampshade hangings
Compare to Drives Like Crazy
. Not to be confused with Driving a Desk
, which is about visual effects.
In Real Life
, taking your focus off the road for even the duration of an extended sneezing fit or to answer a phone call or text or try to control misbehaving children in the backseat is a major
cause of serious and fatal (and not-serious as well) accidents, as are other forms of "distracted driving". In fact, distracted driving is even more
likely to actually cause an accident than drunk driving below 0.12 with the drunk focused on the road, because to a certain degree of intoxication, a drunk can actually see
what is going on around them, if not otherwise distracted, and because distracted driving is far, far more common than drunk driving. If you must do something that will take your full visual focus off the road for more than a few seconds, pull over.
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- Exaggerated and parodied in one Bloom County strip when the guys are on a "Billy and the Boingers" tour. Steve Dallas calls the band together in the back of their van for a meeting, then:
Waitasecond... (looks around
) ...WHO'S DRIVING?! Opus:
Cool your jets, I put the cruise control on.
- In The Sugarland Express, the driver who picks up Lou Jean and Clovis thinks nothing of turning around and having a conversation with them, paying no attention to the road, and driving 25 mph on the open highway. This draws the attention of a patrolman and starts a series of disasters that form the backbone of the plot.
- Lampshaded in Strange Brew. While driving, the McKenzie brothers discuss how people in movies never look at the road in driving scenes. During this conversation, Doug (who's driving) swivels all the way around in his seat to face Bob directly, causing them to almost crash.
- From Two Fast Two Furious: "He did the stare-and-drive on you, didn't he? He got that from me."
- In Bringing Up Baby, the female lead's reckless aside glances lead to a rear-end collision with a chicken-loaded truck.
- Seann William Scott plays this one for laughs in The Dukes of Hazzard movie.
- In the film Amélie, this is brought up as a pet peeve of the title character. It shows footage from some black-and-white movie to demonstrate.
- Lloyd drives a limo like this in Dumb and Dumber while telling his passenger how dangerous drivers are today. At one point, we hear tires screeching, and shortly afterwards there's an explosion behind the car. Lloyd doesn't notice.
- Harold Lloyd takes the first example to a ridiculous extreme in his silent 1928 comedy Speedy. Playing a NYC cabdriver, he picks up none other than Babe Ruth, and is so starstruck that he repeatedly turns around to chat with his hero... while driving through heavy Midtown traffic at a dizzyingly fast speed, much to Ruth's horror.
- Subverted in The Blind Side. It looks like the trope is played straight at first, but then Reality Ensues with a car accident.
- This happens for a full 20 seconds at the end of Everything Is Illuminated.
- Halloween II (2009) features a sequence where the driver of an ambulance would rather stare at the mouth of the guy in the passenger seat. Then they hit a cow.
- xXx: When he drives Senator Hotchkiss's Corvette, Xander speaks into several cameras facing anywhere but backwards.
- Subverted in The Descent, in which Sarah's husband holds her gaze for a few seconds too long, drifts into the oncoming lane and crashes into a car coming the other way.
- The very concept of Driver Faces Passenger is parodied in Last Action Hero, where Jack Slater turns around completely in his seat so that he is almost lying in the back seat and drives the car entirely with his feet, all so he can fire his gun more accurately backwards. He claims that you just need a lot of practice in a low traffic area.
- Portrayed realistically in Mystery Team. Though Leroy constantly turns around to yell at the protagonists, Duncan constantly requests that he focuses on the road. This later turns out to be good advice.
- In the movie version of Sleepwalk With Me, Mike Birbiglia narrates most of the movie to the camera (which seems to be pointed at him from the passenger side corner of the windshield) while he drives around. He rarely looks at the road.
- In First Blood, Rambo climbs into the passenger seat of a military truck and holds the driver at knifepoint. When the driver stares at him Rambo tells him to look at the road and not at him (and for some reason he feels the need to spell out that not looking at the road causes accidents).
- In the book Last Chance To See, Douglas Adams talks about how their driver would turn to look at you when asking a question. He would not look back at the road until he got an answer, making it very hard to form coherent sentences.
- Used in the Twilight series by Edward especially, who stares at Bella for long periods while driving at excessive speed. And while vampires in the series have superhuman senses and reaction speeds, Bella's clunky car does not, meaning that even when he does use his senses it's still incredibly dangerous.
- In Larry Niven's short story "The Deadlier Weapon", a hitchhiker pulls a knife on a driver, who responds by accelerating the high speed and threatening to ram an overpass support. As part of the psychological pressure, he keeps looking away from the road to face the hitchhiker, including when the hitchhiker surrenders and drops his knife out the window.
- This caused Dick and Mary to crash once on 3rd Rock from the Sun.
- Real Life: Ken and Curt, from the fourth season of Canada's Worst Driver, have this cited as among their worst problems. And Scott from Season Six was often called "Hollywood" as an insult by his nominator, who eventually cancelled Scotts insurance. In other words, Scott was kicked off the show by his own nominator—in the second episode, no less!
- Truth in Television: During the Alfa Romeo Challenge on Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson demonstrates just how loose the steering is on Hammond's 2.0 Spyder, wiggling the wheel 30 degrees each way, and the front wheels shown on camera are not moving at all. He then Lampshades it by saying: "You can drive this car through an American movie!"
- On NCIS Gibbs drives without looking at the road while speeding and heading toward oncoming traffic, much to the terror of his team members. He's never had an accident. Ziva does this too, to a lesser extent.
- The Friends episode "The One With Joey's Big Break" has a moment where, while Joey and Chandler are travelling to Las Vegas for filming of Joey's movie, Joey mentions he's getting tired and that maybe Chandler should drive. Chandler tells him that they've only been driving for half an hour (and hadn't even left Manhattan), and that Joey hadn't looked at the road once. Joey says, "Don't worry, it's out there," looks at the road, swerves, and another car honks at him.
- Booth spends an inordinate amount of time looking at Bones as they talk in his SUV, instead of keeping his eyes on those busy Washington DC city streets.
- In "The Witch in the Wardrobe", this trope is subverted when Hodgins looks at Angela's camera while driving and ends up swerving into the next lane.
- White Collar: Lampshaded. Peter had a tendency to lecture Neal while driving and take his eyes off the road, leading to several almost crashes.
- The Comeback, starring Lisa Kudrow. Kudrow's character Valerie Cherish is driving along, and then looks in the backseat to talk to her director, Jane, only to have Jane say, "Could you please keep your eyes on the road." Mostly because Jane was in the car during Valerie's previous foray into Driver Faces Passenger, which ended in a car wreck.
- Shows up in an AR exhibit in an episode of Red Dwarf. Lister and Cat are shown robotically jerking Starbug's steering yoke hard to the left, then shoving it forward. Left, forward. That'd get you in a wreck, even on an oval track.
- Hawaii Five-0: Steve McGarrett is especially bad about it, looking at his passenger all the time while driving, and even once turning around to face Danno in the backseat.
- Averted in El Goonish Shive: Susan carries on a conversation with Sarah during which she actually points to (bits of) Sarah but never turns her head and rarely takes her eyes off the road ahead. In fact, there is only one panel of one strip set in the car where Susan faces Sarah and, in the commentary of that strip, Dan rails against the idea of this trope.
- In a strip of Questionable Content, Tai is driving with Faye and looking at her and talking about Dora while driving, until Faye shouts at her and tells her that she ran three red lights and almost hit an old woman on the sidewalk.
- Sluggy Freelance: In the second Torg Potter storyline, Weaselo is too busy showing pictures to Torg, prompting Torg to yell "Eyes on the road." Despite them being in a flying car, this is still relevant.