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Driver Faces Passenger

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Watch the road, bro.

"I swear you'll be the first patient in the ER with airbag rash on the back of his head."
Mr. Owl, Daisy Owl

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. The reason it is so ubiquitous is because almost never is an actor actually driving and acting at the same time. The vehicle is either on a trailer or being towed behind the camera car - or the actors are in a car set in a studio.

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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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Hawkeye Vol 4, issue #3: A member of the Tracksuit Draculas, while driving a car, spends more time talking to his kidnapped victim than looking at what's happening on the road. He fails to notice the pursuing Hawkeye in another car, who promptly crashes into his car from the side.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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:
    Steve: Waitasecond... (looks around) ...WHO'S DRIVING?!
    Opus: Cool your jets, I put the cruise control on.

    Films - Animated 

    Films - Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Parodied in Amélie: One of the things Amelie does not like are drivers in American films who don't watch the road. Cut to a scene from the American film Father's Little Dividend where the actor drives a desk and looks at his passenger 99% of the time. In the DVD director's commentary, Jean-Pierre Jeunet comments on how difficult it is to find a clip exhibiting this trope when you're specifically looking for one.note 
  • From 2 Fast 2 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.
  • Subverted in Knight and Day. Tom Cruise spends a scene in a car, on the highway, at night, and almost the entire time is looking at the female protagonist and explaining the plot of the movie to her. Once they're all caught up, they both lean back in their seats to get some sleep - whereupon the camera pans back to reveal the car they're in is on a larger tow rig that Cruise had been looking at earlier.
  • Seann William Scott plays this one for laughs in The Dukes of Hazzard movie.
  • 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. Oh, and then he comments on all the bad drivers out there.
  • Harold Lloyd takes the first example to a ridiculous extreme in his silent 1928 comedy Speedy. Playing a New York City cab driver, 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 Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs 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 almost every direction except forwards. He's planning to dump the (stolen) car in a ravine for his livestream anyway, but he's supposed to be a thrill-seeker, not a Death Seeker.
  • 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.
  • Played with in the Italian comedy Madly In Love (1981): Adriano Celentano plays a bus driver who falls in love with his passenger, and looks into her face all the time instead of the road. When she asks him how does he drive, he answers that he sees the road through the reflection in her eyes, and suggests her to close them. Sure enough, as soon as she closes them, he crashes into another car.
  • 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 Shot Caller, Jacob is driving tipsy with three passengers. He looks back to fist bump his friend, and crashes almost immediately. It only gets worse from there.
  • 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).
  • Plot point in Triangle, where the heroine is distracted by her son in the backseat, she turns around for several seconds without looking ahead and crashes into an oncoming truck.
  • The Bishop's Wife: Sylvester the cabbie gets so involved in talking to his back-seat passengers that he nearly drives their cab into a truck. Luckily Dudley is an angel, so he uses his angelic powers to save everyone else in the cab from death.
  • In the fifties driving safety short Last Clear Chance, one of the characters and his girlfriend turn around to wave at his brother while continuing to drive forward. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs when they reach the train tracks.
  • Subverted in Horrible Bosses. While driving, Nick turns around to slap Kurt several times, but Dale, sitting next to Nick, holds the wheel and makes sure nothing bad happens.
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League: this is the cause of the car accident that kills Elinore Stone (who was at the wheel) and cripples Victor (who later get a cybernetic body courtesy of a Mother Box and becomes Cyborg) when they're having an argument about Vic's father Silas not having time to come support him at his football match.
  • In The Chase, Jack Hammond didn't have to turn to face his passenger...because she crawled into his lap and proceeded to have sex with him at 80 miles per hour with the police in hot pursuit.

  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: Walter Denton usually drives Miss Brooks to school. As a reckless sixteen-year-old driver, he, of course, looks at Miss Brooks instead of looking at the road. On one occasion, Miss Brooks had to grab the wheel and steer in order to prevent an accident.
  • 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 Scott's insurance. In other words, Scott was kicked off the show by his own nominator—in the second episode, no less! A distracted driving demonstration course has featured in most seasons from Two on.
  • In Supernatural, Dean will frequently take his eyes off the road to look at Sam during conversations in the car, with zero repercussions in the entire show. It's Lampshaded in Season 11 "Baby", after Sam tries to take the wheel while Dean eats a burrito wrap and Dean bats his hand away.
    Sam: You're not even looking at the road!
  • 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 the 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.
  • Bones:
    • 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 the early seasons of Smallville. Numerous episodes involve something bad happening the moment someone takes their eyes off the road. Lex first encounters Clark by driving into him.
  • Happens in a Seinfeld episode, while Jerry and Kramer are in an ambulance taking George to the hospital. The two paramedics get out to have a fight and afterwards, the remaining one is arguing with Jerry and Kramer as they yell at him for leaving the other man in the street. When he threatens to fight with them, they respond by screaming at him to watch the road. He continues to scream...and we cut to black as we hear the sound of a crash. The closing credits play over the three of them in the hospital with bruises and neck braces.
  • Daredevil (2015): After Karen shoots her drug-dealing boyfriend Todd to stop him from beating her brother Kevin with a tire iron (after Kevin decided to burn down Todd's trailer and pick a fight with him), she gets Kevin in the car and drives off. She's high, strung out, and angry at Kevin for choosing to confront Todd in an attempt to get him away from Karen. The whole time, Karen keeps looking at Kevin, who is bleeding from where Todd punched him. Unfortunately, she keeps her eyes off the road too long to realize she's drifting out of her lane until it's too late. The car hits the guardrail of a small bridge and is launched airborne, flipping several times before coming to rest on its roof. Karen survives the accident with minor cuts and scrapes, but Kevin (who wasn't wearing a seatbelt) breaks his neck and is killed instantly.
  • In the Broad City episode "Destination: Wedding," Kevin is supposed to be driving the taxi, but he spends most of the trip facing the backseat, talking about all their college friends who OD'd. Unsurprisingly, he ends up hitting another taxi, although no one is injured.

    Video Games 
  • Deconstructed Trope in Command & Conquer: Renegade during a cutscene, where an NPC does this and nearly crashes a truck into a cow.
  • Averted in Roundabout where Georgio only turns to face their passengers before the driving begins and they never look to their passengers while driving.
  • Painkiller: Daniel takes his eyes off the road briefly to hold Catherine's hand, which causes him to veer into a head-on collision with a truck.

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Susan is very good at avoiding this trope. She 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.
    • Diane, on the other hand turns to face Charlotte when given shocking information, namely that the superheroine Cheerleadra might actually be Elliot Dunkel, the guy who she has been crushing on for a while. Nanase directs her back to the road in time to avert a near-crash.
  • 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.
  • In Real Life Comics, the Author Avatar does this in an early strip.
  • 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.
  • In Ménage à 3, Zii's fangirl found the safest way to do it.
  • In Daisy Owl, Mr. Owl tells Steve's boss not to talk to Steve while he's driving, since Steve is "one of those guys that turns around to talk to people in the back seat." Steve instantly proves him right.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "She Swill Survive", Stan and Hayley, both drunk off their asses, try to make small talk with a cab driver, causing him to look back at them and get his cab hit by another car while crossing an intersection.
  • In Disney's educational short Freewayphobia, one of the ways Goofy demonstrates the dangers of distracted driving by talking to the passenger in the back seat and crashing into the car in front of him.
  • Danger Mouse does this rather too often when driving the Mark III and talking to Penfold in the passenger seat. And DM only has one eye to keep on the road/sky!
  • DuckTales (2017): Launchpad loosened the support of the pilot's seat on the Sunchaser/Cloudslayer, specifically so that he can look passengers in the eye as he tells them they're about to crash. This being Launchpad, he'd manage to crash even if he did always keep his eyes on the sky, and Della concedes that the eye contact is somewhat comforting.
  • Johnny Bravo had a variation on this theme. Johnny's driving along, trying to talk to the pretty girl in the car next to his, and suddenly crashes into a guardrail.

Alternative Title(s): Eyes Off The Road, Driving Without Looking, Watch Where You Drive, Hollywood Driving