The prosecution: Nyala
My boyfriend gets angry at my driving, saying it’s unsafe. I think he acts negatively towards all female drivers
Isaac always has something to say when I’m driving, and it’s usually negative. He tells me that I’m driving too fast, or that I’m too close to the car in front. He’ll shout and say I’m going to cause an accident, when I know I’m fine.
We met at school, and have been together for almost 13 years; we are now engaged. Two years ago at Christmas I was driving to his parents’ house down a windy country lane. When I approached a corner with pedestrians, Isaac said I didn’t brake quickly enough.
He lost it and shouted: “You’re dangerous – you’re not even looking where you’re going.” He said I was unfocused and stupid in a really nasty tone. I pulled over and demanded he apologise or get out. When he refused, I got out of the car and stormed off. I was in a tiny gym top in the snow. It was freezing, but I couldn’t get back in the car until he’d calmed down. Eventually we went to his parents but the mood was frosty for hours.Eventually, we went to his parents but the mood was frosty for hours.
I’ve never crashed or come close to having an accident, whereas Isaac had a near-miss once as a teenager – I think it’s made him paranoid. He passed his driving test the second time round – I passed mine on the first. I’ve never crashed or come close to having an accident whereas Isaac had a near-miss as a teenager. He passed his driving test the second time round – I passed mine first time. I think I’m the better driver but I don’t like being told what to do in the car. He also complains about my choice of music (90s pop, the Spice Girls) and says it’s more distracting than his rock. WhenIf he’s driving I let him put on whatever.
I think he acts especially negatively to female drivers. He’s said my driving reminds him of his mother’s . He’s said that my driving reminds him of his mother, and I’ve witnessed him get road rage with women. One time he called a woman a “ditzy idiot” out of the window when it was actually her right of way on a roundabout. I’m not sure he would do that to a man.
Isaac needs to reconsider the way he talks to me (and others) when he’s in the car. He needs to learn to trust me like I trust him when he’s driving.
The defence: Isaac
Nyala drives faster than I do, is always in a rush and is stubborn about advice – but I’m just trying to keep us safe
We’re both control freaks in the car but I admit I’m particularly bad. I’m not aggressive or angry, but I tell Nyala off sometimes when she drives extremely close to the person in front of her. I was recently on the motorway when the driver in front of me made to turn off the road. Then they decided they didn’t want to make that turn and suddenly swerved back onto the road. If I had been close to that car I would have been in trouble. I tell her leaving gaps between cars is easy, but she tells me I’m overreacting, that she’s a better driver than me because she’s calmer. But driving’s not just about attitude; it’s about skill too.
Nyala drives faster than me: she’s always in a rush. She’s stubborn when it comes to advice. That time at Christmas, she was driving too fast around a bend as we were late to my parents’ house because of her. She got offended when I told her she was driving irresponsibly but I didn’t apologise as she caused the situation.
As a teenager, I thought I was the the ultimate boy racer. But when I was 19, my car spun out of control on a country road and ended up in a ditch. I was shaken, but don’t remember discussing it with Nyala at the time. I was embarrassed. Now I’m slower, more careful.
It’s rubbish that I am more critical of female drivers; I don’t trust anyone on the road. I’ve seen how careless people can be. Nyala’s habit of driving too close to the car in front reminds me of my mother, who once had a crash because of it. But I don’t think female drivers are worse than male ones.
Nyala’s insistence on playing the Spice Girls every time she gets in the car is, admittedly, hard to take for a Bruce Springsteen fan like me. I do try to control the music, but that’s because rock is less distracting than the stuff you dance to.
I could be gentler in my approach to Nyala’s driving, but in those moments, she stresses me out and there’s no time for tact. She needs to listen because I’m just trying to keep us safe. It pisses me off when she discounts my experience and says she’s a better driver: accidents can happen to anyone.
The jury of Guardian readers
Should my boyfriend stop telling me how to drive?
Isaac has a point – it is important to learn to drive safely. My (two!) speed awareness courses taught me a lot about safe driving. Maybe both Nyala and Isaac could do an advanced driver course.
I’m on Nyala’s side. It sounds like Isaac doesn’t like being in the car with her. Criticising her driving is probably enough to make her nervous. She’s probably anxious before she even gets in the car. If he doesn’t like her driving or her music – take his own car and go separately. Problem solved!”
Nyala is right. Isaac sounds like the one who lacks skills after crashing in a ditch. He seems to be denying his aggressive behaviour and bias against women drivers. He needs to figure out a way of dealing with things when Nyala is driving – including the music.
Nyala doesn’t seem to be able to handle what might be warranted criticism, yet Isaac doesn’t know how to deliver that criticism calmly or kindly. Better communication is key here. And while Nyala may or may not be right about Isaac and women drivers, control-freakism over driving (and whose music is playing) is a classical masculine trait, and not one to be proud of.
If Isaac has concerns he should raise them in a less stressful context, like outside the car, as shouting at someone while they are driving could provoke an accident. It sounds like Isaac is punishing Nyala for his own bad experience.
You be the judge
So now you can be the judge, click on the poll below to tell us: should Isaac stop telling Nyala how to drive?
We’ll share the results on next week’s You be the judge.
The poll will close on November 4, 9am GMT
Last week’s result
Last week, we asked if Joshua should return his out-of-control dog to the shelter, because it annoys his roommate Abdul.
83% of you said no – Joshua is innocent
17% of you said yes – Joshua is guilty