In most cases, passengers are not ultimately responsible for a driver’s behavior, but they can take important steps to help everyone stay safe.

In the Old West when stagecoaches reigned as a form of transport, a shotgun-toting passenger might sit next to the driver. This passenger's focus was to scare off thieves and other nasties and to protect the stagecoach. The modern term "riding shotgun" has its roots in this Old West custom, and there are plenty of things that passengers in Connecticut can do to help keep everyone in a car safe.

Minimize distractions

Perhaps the most important thing is to avoid becoming a distraction. This tends to be easier said than done with teen drivers and teen passengers, so experts recommend that parents set limits on passenger numbers. For example, parents may say that their teen drivers cannot have other teens in the car until they have six months of driving experience or even a year's worth.

Other things passengers should do to minimize driver distraction are to stay quiet or to hold conversations that do not require the driver to turn his or her head to look at something.

One more thing: It can tempting to hold serious conversations in the car while a driver is focusing on the road, but a surprised or suddenly angry driver could be a risk to others.

Help drivers when they give requests

Drivers may ask passengers to do things such as respond to a text, make a phone call, turn down the radio or keep an eye out for street names or signs. A driver may also ask a passenger to be quiet for a while so the driver can focus. Whatever drivers ask, passengers should do.

Wear a seat belt

Even if the driver does not wear a seat belt, the passenger should. Fortunately, many drivers do wear seat belts, and passengers absolutely should without having to be prompted. The last thing a driver needs to worry about is having passengers who moan about wearing seat belts or who do not wear them at all.

Keep an eye on the driver

Does the driver seem like he or she needs a break? Are there signs of tiredness or drowsiness? If a driver seems to be nodding off, he or she may not realize it. A passenger should step in and say something such as, "Hey, you seem tired. Want to pull over for a rest or let me drive?" A similar concept applies to driving under the influence.

Just as passengers in Connecticut can help everyone in a car stay safe, their behavior plus the driver's actions may lead to a serious accident. It also happens that no matter what a passenger does, the driver is unsafe behind the wheel or another driver is, and the passenger gets injured. A lawyer may be able to help injured passengers and others hurt by negligent drivers.