I work as a web developer. It's not the most hazardous job in the world, I know.

At the company I work at, we host several of our client websites on our server which is based in a datacenter downtown. It's the time of year where our business has drastically slowed down, so my boss (and company owner) assigned me and a coworker the task of taking a trip to the datacenter to perform some maintenance/upgrades.

I ride my bike to work each day because I only live a few miles away - I actually don't even own a car.

The last time I went to the datacenter I rode with my coworker. To say that I was frightened would be an understatement. He was speeding 20mph over the speed limit WHILE texting and looking down at his phone once every 10 seconds the entire ride on the freeway.

How do I explain to my coworker that I do not want to ride with him without hurting his feelings and/or our working relationship?

  • 11
    Why didn't you feel comfortable saying something while the crazy driving was going on?
    – user8365
    Dec 9, 2013 at 18:54
  • 56
    How is this not a workplace problem? The OP is having issues carpooling with a coworker from one office location to another during work hours for work reasons. A decision that the OP makes here may impact her/his work relationship.
    – MrFox
    Dec 9, 2013 at 20:06
  • 21
    This sounds like it's an issue about navigating the workspace quite literally.
    – CMW
    Dec 9, 2013 at 20:45
  • 11
    He's putting your life at risk, and you're worried about his feefees?! Dec 9, 2013 at 22:07
  • 1
    Are you in a jurisdiction where texting while driving is a driving violation? Is the company paying tour suicidal co-worker mileage for your trip?
    – DJohnM
    Dec 9, 2013 at 22:21

8 Answers 8


'Going through' your boss won't work because if your boss talks to your coworker it does not take much for him to understand that the information came from you.

It may be awkward, but you should indeed tell him. You don't say what/how your relation is, but I suggest you take him apart aside at some opportune occasion (not in the car, but e.g. when you're working with him, or having lunch). You can acknowledge that you feel a bit embarassed having to say that, but that you were actually afraid during that ride. You can't avoid mentioning why but you should try to keep it to yourself: you were not feeling at ease.

You don't have a guarantee that you won't hurt his feelings, because those are mainly determined by his own reaction and not your words.

Don't wait too long.

Depending on his reaction you may have another question for 'workplace' ;-)

  • 18
    +1 for honesty. Why take things to boss (and higher) if you can solve it with a simple conversation?
    – WernerCD
    Dec 9, 2013 at 20:00
  • 2
    It also worth pointing out that you're taking this drive as part of a work activity arising from your employment which has some additional implications: (1) your employer is responsible for your safety, so if there is a OH&S issue present then they need to be notified of the risk immediately, and (2) secondly, your co-workers can drive how they like on their own time, but if it's a work activity then he has an obligation to you to drive safely and within the law. Dec 10, 2013 at 2:10
  • 3
    @MarkyMark Everyone is oblidged to drive safely! Everywhere, anytime! It's just that intentional law violation is a very good reason for them to get fired, and driving 20mph over limit while texting is intentional!
    – yo'
    Dec 10, 2013 at 6:49
  • 3
    Taking him apart seems a bit harsh... maybe try taking him aside first :) Dec 10, 2013 at 12:21
  • 2
    @Jon Nice catch. That's what happens when a Dutchman translates his "iemand apart nemen" into English ;-)
    – user8036
    Mar 4, 2015 at 19:42

This is really an issue about personal boundaries. For some reason, you appear to be feeling that you don't have a right to speak out about your own personal safety when you should just be direct about it.

For a workplace to really be effective, there has to be clear, honest communication. For something like this, just address the issue while you're in the car. You don't have to call the guy a jerk or a lousy driver. Just ask him to slow down a bit and watch the road. If that doesn't snap him out of it, then be more insistent that he pay attention to the road and stop texting. If he blows you off, then you can decide whether to escalate the issue or just avoid traveling together. If your coworker gets offended by this, then he's the problem, not you.

In many cases, when your personal boundaries are somehow violated, whether that be bad driving or people taking things from your desk, addressing the issue quickly, immediately, and concisely has a greater chance of altering the behavior without making a capital case out of it.

From Step 5 "Reinforce" section of Live Bold and Bloom's 10 Ways To Establish Personal Boundaries:

Let them know what they are doing. Ask them to stop immediately. Walk away from any push-back or negative comments without acquiescing or getting angry. Over time, you and the other person will realize you are serious.

The idea here is that you want to be "taken seriously and respected". When we tip-toe around issues for fear of hurting someone's feelings, we lose our ability to enforce our boundaries. What's more, trying to enforce them once a pattern of violation has been established can be tough.

Consider that this isn't the same as being mean. The goal here isn't to offend but to stand up for yourself. This technique applies to all aspects of personal boundaries in the workplace, whether it be commuting with a colleague, having someone take things off your desk, or interrupt you in a meeting. That happened to me. I interrupted a co-worker while she was in her meeting, and she politely called me on it. Now, I chat her if her door is closed and ask if she's free.

  • Sort-of agree. However, IMHO it's better to bring it up outside of the conflict situation, if it's possible (which seems to be the case here). Calmness helps things.
    – yo'
    Dec 10, 2013 at 6:52
  • 3
    @tohecz - In this case, we're talking about a personal boundary being crossed, one's safety. In these cases, the sooner you address the issue, the more likely you are to assert yourself, and the less likely it is to be an issue to the other person. "Dude, you mind slowing down, you're making me nervous", shouldn't cause too much of a scene. Any normal, caring person would probably say "sorry", slow down, and resume the conversation. Now, a conflict is different, in a conflict, or argument, sure, you'd want to take a step back and address the issue when both parties have calmed down.
    – jmort253
    Dec 10, 2013 at 7:13
  • 1
    Well, TBH, I wouldn't bring it up in the car, unless I knew the person very well. The chance that person gets into an accident just now are low, and I can survive dangerous ride once. The chance that he gets angry while driving are quite high, and then we get into an accident much easier. IMHO it's much safer to let it be at that moment, and for me at least, safety first, personal feelings second. (Which is a bit different argument that I posted before, apologies for not including it there.)
    – yo'
    Dec 10, 2013 at 7:21
  • Do not walk away from push back at 20mph above the speed limit.
    – Myles
    Mar 4, 2015 at 18:10

What is your desired outcome?

Assuming that you need a car to get to the data center, if you're happy paying for a cab or renting/ borrowing a car for the day, it's easy enough to say that you don't need a ride. If you want to avoid addressing the issue, you can say that you've got plans after work and would prefer to provide your own transportation.

If the goal is to have the company pay for a cab or to arrange other transportation, the problem is a bit stickier.

Would you be comfortable riding with this coworker if they agreed to drive more cautiously? If so, I'd start by taking the coworker aside and having a private conversation. Explain that when you're a passenger, you tend to get particularly nervous and ask if he would do you a favor by putting the cell phone down and focusing on the speed limit. That need not be strictly true, but it's often easier to get people to accommodate you by asking for a favor.

If you wouldn't ever be comfortable riding with this coworker and you want the company to provide transportation, then that's probably a conversation to have with your manager.


How do I explain to my coworker that I do not want to ride with him without hurting his feelings and/or our working relationship?

In order to avoid hurting his feelings or your relationship, you first need to make sure he understand that you respect him, and that your complaints are not a personal attack, but a problem you have which conflicts with his standard operating procedure.

Depending on your own personality, you might even try to downplay it as a "it's not you, it's me" but that doesn't show adequate respect for yourself, and can still damage your relationship.

There is a conflict, and in the same way you'd work with a client to resolve a project conflict, you need to work with your coworker to resolve a working conflict. This involves agreeing on the requirements, investigating the resources available, and agreeing to a solution.

You aren't going to be easily be able to say, "I'm never ever riding with you again" in a respectful manner. If you do respect him, then if he hears your complaints and promises to drive in a manner meeting your needs, then it will be disrespectful if you do not take him up on his offer. If you don't trust him, then you will have trouble telling him without also explaining that you don't trust his word, should he offer to drive better. Since you didn't speak up while he was driving (and that may have been a good choice), then you should clear things up, the sooner the better.

I'd attempt to start off similar to the following:

"John, you and I are supposed to go to the data center next week. The last time we went you gave me a ride since I don't have a car. While I appreciated the ride, I found I was very uneasy at the speed you drove, and how frequently you took your eyes off the road to interact with your phone."

You've stated the problem and why it's relevant (upcoming trip). At this point you should give him a few moments to process the information and respond. You could simply barrel on with your proposed solution if you have chosen one, but if you respect and value him and his opinion, you should give him a say. Keep in mind that this is a two way road, and he may have something to say about how he felt the trip went - for instance if you were silent the entire time and he was bored driving.

From there you can discuss potential solutions. Again, if he offers to drive more slowly and to keep his eyes on the road, if you do respect him you'll end up taking him up on that offer, and during the drive you'll feel free to speak up if he's failing to manage his speed and attention. You'll probably want to engage him in conversation so he doesn't get bored driving with a silent passenger.

Only if you two are unable to resolve the conflict should you get the boss involved.

You didn't ask for ways to avoid the conflict altogether, but if you'd like to not have to bring it up at all, then simply tell your coworker and boss that you have a few things you need to do near the data center, and as such you'll be renting a car, meeting him there, and then staying behind after everything is done. It'll cost you more than the free ride from your coworker, but if it's a once a year trip, then it's probably not a big deal.


How do I explain to my coworker that I do not want to ride with him without hurting his feelings and/or our working relationship?

Make up an innocuous excuse (such as "I've got some non-work things to do and may be late. You should leave without me.")

Then, take a cab.


How do I explain to my coworker that I do not want to ride with him without hurting his feelings and/or our working relationship?

I would recommend not speaking with your co-worker about this.

Have a brief, private conversation with your boss to inform them as to why you are unable to ride with your co-worker to the data center.

This will most likely not be a one time situation. If that's the case, you will need to continuously think of reason why you can't ride with your co-worker even though they have a car and you don't. Your co-worker may very well get suspicious of you after a few times of this.

If your boss is aware of the situation, they can then figure out the workarounds of their unsafe employees instead of you having to take on that stress by yourself.

  • This would not solve the issue of the person driving to drive in a safer manner. Actually, this is not a problem for the boss, but an issue between the OP and his co-worker. The co-worker will see that he is being avoided as a driver and since he will not know the reason, he might come with wrong conclusions and feelings. A direct approach would better and should be attempted first. If the two coworkers cannot come to an agreement, only then it will become a boss issue. If the OP is not comfortable speaking to his colleague, then maybe the OP also has a problem to be taken care of? Dec 10, 2013 at 11:25
  • @IvayloSlavov I disagree that the issue is between the co-worker and the OP. It's between the coworker's company and anyone on the road or in the car that can be negatively impacted by the very dangerous (per the OP's description) driving of a company representitive performing company functions. In some places, it will be the company that gets sued when their employee is the cause of an accident. This isn't a "my co-worker talks too loud" question. It's similar to a "my coworker drives drunk while working" question. Dec 11, 2013 at 12:50
  • If you put it that way, you could be right in case the company risks of being liable in case of an accident. I am not completely convinced this is the case all over the world (I mean different countries having different laws). Besides, if the driver is using his own car, and thus not asserting in any way the driving is part of his job routine and is done on behalf of his company, then the driver will be the one responsible for any accidents. It is not the company's responsibility for the driving capabilities of its employees. Dec 11, 2013 at 12:59
  • I completely agree the danger the co-worker may represent, but the moral duty of the OP to address his own issue, and the global issue of the bad driving directly to with the co-worker first. I suppose there are other authorities besides the company that should take care of road safety, so the OP might also address them, if s/he is reasonably concerned about road safety. Dec 11, 2013 at 13:01

When I had a similar issue, (the driver was my boss) I jokingly said how I would never drive with him again. Not the way he drove last time. How I would always be taking the train (refuse his offers), etc.

He respected my decision.

Try it.


In contrast to some of the other suggestions, I feel the best solution in this case is to mention the behavior at the moment that it occurs, because more than likely the distracted driving is a habit rather than a conscious decision the co-worker does.

Confronting him about it outside of the situation in which it happens is more than likely going to lead to some resentment among the co-worker (it may sound like you are criticizing his/her habits or lifestyle), not to mention that he/she will forget the next time they're in a car together since the situation might not come up for another day or two.

The reason I feel the OP wouldn't feel comfortable asking the co-worker to drive more carefully is because it sounds like the OP is judging or criticizing the OP's lifestyle if not done properly, and I feel that doing it on a day when they're not going to be hitting the road would sound more of a criticism of the co-worker rather than a respectful request.

The next time some before getting in the car, I would speak up and say, "Hey, do you mind not looking at the cell phone while driving? It makes me a little nervous." It lets the co-worker know that you're not necessarily judging his/her actions (even if you really are) and it is an immediate reminder for the person to drive more carefully (at least while you're in the car with that person).

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