Pet Peeve #22: Drive Safe!

Do I look like I'm unable to drive safely without your reminder?

How many times in your life has someone told you in parting, “Drive safe”? How many times have you said it (or the grammatically correct version, “Drive safely”)?

Okay, I get it. It’s just one of those things we say. It’s really no different than saying “goodbye.” So then why do we even say it? What is the point in telling someone to drive safe?

It bothers me because of course they’re going to drive safe. Do you really think they’re going to get into their car and intentionally swerve all over the road? They don’t need you to tell them which driving option they should choose: safe or reckless.

That’s my internal reaction when I hear someone say this. And again, I know they’re just being polite. But it’s one of those phrases that I think we could do without.

Daily Quickie: On that survey I recently distributed, there was a question about PowerPoint. I think this illustrates how other mediums are probably better than a slideshow (Star Wars fans, you’re going to like this. A lot).

19 thoughts on “Pet Peeve #22: Drive Safe!”

  1. I feel the same when someone tells you not to spill something. I find myself thinking, “Well, I had planned to spill it, but now that you’ve cautioned me against it, I guess I’ll reconsider.”

    In fact, I’ve heard that telling children (and adults to a lesser degree) NOT to do something makes that event more likely because their minds automatically envision the event (e.g., the spill), whereas flipping the statement (“Hold the cup upright with both hands” for example) reinforce a positive vision. Those of you with children, take heed!

    P.S.–It drives me nuts when people say “Drive safe” instead of “Drive safely”. Haven’t they ever heard of an adverb???

    • So in telling someone to drive safely, you’re actually increasing the chance they don’t drive safely? I think that’s a sound argument about no one ever saying “Drive safe” again. Or telling someone not to spill their drink.

      This reminds me of another such phrase that is even more widely used: “Good luck.” Again, I know, it’s just something we say. But if you say it to someone who’s about to do something that actually involves skill—like a job interview, for example–I think it’s kind of insulting. In an offhand way, you’re saying, “Your skills may not be enough for you to get this job, but some luck might help.” I try to say “have fun” instead. Even if it’s something that isn’t usually fun, if you’re having fun at a job interview, you’re probably doing pretty well. And unlike “drive safe,” it may not have occurred to the person that having fun on the interview is an option.

      • Well, actually, “Drive safely” would be a positive example in this case.

        I read that the effect wasn’t as stong in most adults, but that some people still have problems envisioning what’s being said and then being predisposed to taking that action.

  2. I’ve got no problem with “drive safe(ly).” Presumably, the speaker actually means to wish that to the recipient. People can wish all the good things upon me they wish, in my book.

    What annoys me are the questions like “How are you?” spoken without the intention of ever listening to a response other than “Good. And you?” Sometimes when somebody initiates this with me when we’re walking in opposite directions in the hallway I have to spin around just to get out a canned “Good. How are you?” What’s wrong with “Hi”?

      • Have either of you ever answered with an out-of-the-box response, like, “Terrible. I’ve got the worst hemmorhoids!” or “Unfreakinbelievable! I just had sex behind the concessions counter at the Chase Park Plaza theater. Malted milk balls were flying everywhere!” You should try it. Sometimes it’ll really make people stop and talk to you.

  3. Well, I’m guilty of saying it both grammatically correct and incorrect. However, I only say it when it’s bad weather out, or I know someone is leaving on a road trip. It’s like saying “Break a leg” before a performance. Tradition? I feel like saying it wishes luck to the person, so a magic driving fairy protects his/her car from any unforeseen curses while getting from A to B.

    Now, if one of the previous situations exists, and I don’t really like the person all that much, I’m just going to say goodbye. Subconsciously maybe I don’t want him/her to drive safely and I hope they get 4 flat tires and a windshield of bird doody. That’s a little harsh though. More often than not, I genuinely care. I don’t know, it is just polite, but I understand your gripe. It’s like one adult telling another adult, “Look both ways”. DUH!

  4. You guys/gals are funny. I usually tell my husband and parents, especially when they are taking my kids somewhere, to drive safely; however, I usually think to say it when I’ve been out and encountered some driving maniacs. I typically precede it with a driving encounter from the current week, and I usually say something like “…So drive safely. The crazies are out today.” Of course, we all know crazies can be out any week, but it keeps me a little more alert. Have you ever driven somewhere and not remembered the drive, because your brain was on autopilot? Yeah, me too. It freaks me out, and now I worry about my kids in other vehicles. I totally agree, though — I hate the “polite talk” that often makes little sense. I will have to try being brutally honest one day :).

    • I totally know what you mean about spacing out on your way to somewhere. There is a tunnel half way through my one hour drive to and from work. Some mornings, and even some evenings, I become conscious again, and think, did I pass the tunnel yet? It is so weird!

  5. It’s not them being polite, Jamey, it’s them showing you that they care about you. When someone tells me to drive safe(ly), I always say “Thank you.” Maybe it’s because my friend was killed in a car crash because two other people weren’t driving safely. The car merged into their car causing her driver to overcompensate and flip over. If both drivers had been vigilant and fully alert and aware of their surroundings, her driver could’ve simply merged into the left lane to let the car entering the highway merge easily into the right lane, and June 15, 2006 would have no significance to any of us now.

    I think it’s more of a reminder to not just be safe for yourself, but also for everyone else on the road–cyclists and pedestrians included. My biggest fear used to be being raped, but now it’s killing someone while in my 4 wheeled death machine (as my dad calls it). I’m not saying that I drive particularly safe all the time–I’m quite guilty of eating, talking, texting, and drinking (not alcohol!) while driving as well as driving while tired or a little buzzed. But when someone tells me to drive safe, I remember it the whole drive to wherever I’m going.

    Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer.

    • Oh definitely not! I was in the parking lot at my home. Maybe that’s what people should say instead of “drive safe”: “Don’t text and drive!”

  6. 1. I say ‘drive safe’ all the time because I intend it to mean, “have a safe drive”
    2. Similarly, I agree with the stated comment that drive safe(ly) is a wish rather than a command, and probably refers to OTHER drivers rather than your own motor vehicle skillz (yes, I spelled that with a z on purpose)
    3. In general, I like being reminded of simple, logical choices because I have a lot on my mind, and while I would not deliberately drive unsafely, I might not remember to focus on my driving if I am thinking too hard about the person I just dropped off 😉
    4. I am strongly opposed to the use of “how are you” as a rhetorical question, and if you ask me how I am – in passing or otherwise – I will tell you the truth in full, gory detail. I have not, however, used the chase park plaza example. I will have to try that.

  7. Thanks for saying what needed to be said. Having some say “drive safely, drive safe”, is so fckn stupid. …..and the recipient always waves and says “I will!”…..maybe you will, maybe you won’t, but having someone tell you to drive safely isn’t going to change a damn thing…, I’ve made it a point these last several years to say “ok,,drive reckless, take chances”

  8. SAME! I just googled “annoys me when people say drive safely” and that is how I found your post. I just said out loud to myself all these same things. I don’t get it! I’m sure the intention is, “I don’t want anything to happen to you while you’re doing something potentially dangerous like driving”, or, “I really care about you and this scares me”. However, it comes off to me like, “you are a bad driver and I know what’s best for you more than you do, so make sure you’re paying attention.” I also hate when people blankly say, “Be careful” instead of, I don’t know, “I love you” or “I’ll see you later”. I just think it’s condescending.

  9. so my boss says this to me and everyone at work, when they say they are leaving. She is a new boss, and for some reason, I never experienced this before, but hearing her say it over and over to me and everyone else, has gotten on my nerves. It does make me feel a certain type a way, like duh, I am going to drive safe…

  10. Yes, I absolutely hate it! I have been guilty but here is the thing, I analyze myself and stop using it. There are people, where it has become habitual and that seems to bug me even more. To me it’s like they had a predisposition, “how can I come off polite to people”, “oh this is a nice thing to say”. No it’s not, and now you sound like a robot, just so everyone hears you’re a polite person. Sorry that doesn’t make you polite, why don’t you try to be polite in a more dynamic way, like when it’s actually hard for you to bite your tongue, or heck let go of your road rage.

    Also when I say bye and the whole room goes BYEEEE, don’t be the one to wait and say “Drive Safe”. How about you STFU!


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