Rideshare etiquette: The best way to behave in the backseat

woman in backseat of car
Susie Wilson has given her top tips for the best backseat etiquette. Photo credit: Getty.

The New Zealand rideshare industry is growing at a rapid rate with Kiwis taking more than 300,000 rides each week.

We've all probably behaved in the back of a car in a way we regret, especially when intoxication or impatience is involved.

Relatively new to the NZ market, rideshare app Ola has launched a guide to driver/passenger etiquette with one of the Australasia's leading experts on modern manners, Susie Wilson.

Kiwis can use this 'Ride Guide' in the back of an Ola, Uber, or even just with your friends.  The guide is for everyone, according to a spokesperson.

"From passengers who think their drivers are furniture removalists, to drivers who don't understand that riders are not interested in their 'life changing' pyramid scheme, Ola wants to tackle these issues head-on," they said. 

The Ride Guide:


The subtle art of seating

It's time that drivers learned how to take a hint, and riders learned the art of subtlety. If you want to spend your ride staring quietly out of the window rather than trying to sound interested in your driver's life story, the seat you jump into can let your driver know that you'd prefer... pretty much, blissful silence. Where you sit in the car is a little like body language - your choice can send the driver a message without the need to use any words at all. Drivers and riders should both brush up on the following code:

  • If you're up for a good chat, jump in the front seat.
  • If you don't mind some small talk and regularly ask your driver things like "how's your night been," or "how long have you been driving for?", try sitting in the backseat diagonal to the driver.
  • If what you really want is to travel in comfortable silence, give your driver the sign by sitting in the back, directly behind him or her.

When a quiet ride is a good ride

Whether you've had a big night out or you're just over interacting with humans, your rideshare journey is often a great time to just zone out and mindlessly browse your Instagram feed. If you're already sitting in the 'silent seat' but your driver still isn't taking the hint, take decisive action and speak-up. Try using one of these phrases, but do your best to avoid using a sassy tone!

  • "I've had a crazy day, don't mind me but I'm just going to take a few minutes of quiet time to become human again."
  • "So sorry, I'm going to tune out for a while so I can answer a few urgent work emails on my phone."
  • "I'm about to put my headphones on, do you need any help with where we're going  before I do?"

Your driver isn't your removalist

Remember what service you booked - you're in a rideshare car, not a removalist truck. Your driver is happy to help you stow your luggage, but they're not moving your entire living room - that's what your friends are for!

On the nose

Food odours and smells can linger. If the last passenger wore excessive cologne, too much Lynx or had an offensive smell, it will affect the next passenger's ride. From time-to-time you're going to come across both passengers and drivers who leave your ride full of whiff. If you're suffering an assault to the olfactory senses, asking your driver to roll down all of the windows can both improve the air quality and give your driver a hint! And if you're a driver, try a cheeky spritz of air freshener to clear any foul aromas left behind, and never, ever, underestimate the transformative power of deodorant.

Tune! Back it off there, Selecta

Drivers, when you've picked up a passenger, remember that their musical needs trump yours. The priority is to make your passenger's journey as enjoyable as possible, and that includes the tunes - or lack thereof. So yes, that means not turning your favourite EDM bangers up to eleven. Or sometimes having to grit your teeth and listen to the cringe-worthy dad-rock of your passenger's choosing. Or nothing at all. Remember, the ride doesn't last forever. Our hot tip: Smooth FM is a great go-to station. And asking your passenger what they'd like to listen to, is a smart way to start every ride.

No sales pitches please

There is almost no-one on earth who doesn't want to make some extra coin and these days, basically everyone has a side hustle. It may seem like your rideshare driver or rider wants to hear your inspiring pitch about the musical toilet seat warmer idea that will change their life, or the pyramid scheme that's a sure thing. But they don't. Stop. Just stop.

Achieving the Goldilocks temperature

Dear driver. You're a human with nerve endings that can feel temperature. So please use them to gauge what the weather is like outside. A good rule of thumb is to keep it cool in summer, but not arctic; warm in winter, but not roasting. If you're still confused by the temperature issue, never hesitate to ask your rider if they're comfortable. And riders, here's a tip for you, too - keep your hands off the controls. Ask your driver if you want to adjust the settings, he or she will be happy to oblige.

Good vibes only

Before you get into a rideshare car, either as a driver or rider, remember to check your attitude. There is nothing worse than sitting in a confined space, for any length of time, with someone who is giving off bad vibes. When you open the car door, or turn on the ignition, let the simmering rage and resentment melt away, and ask your fellow human being how their day has been. It isn't rocket science; it's just basic good-manners that you learned when you were a kid. You're an adult now, but that's no reason to let them go.