17 Driving Idioms: Motoring Phrases You Should Understand

Idioms are the secret sauce that adds flavor to everyday language, giving it color and depth that transcend literal meanings. In English, we often turn to driving idioms to capture the essence of our experiences, feelings, and actions. Whether you’re a native speaker or learning English as a second language, understanding these expressions can help you navigate conversations with greater ease.

What are Driving Idioms?

Driving idioms are phrases or expressions that use driving-related terminology to convey ideas or feelings that go beyond the literal act of operating a vehicle. We apply these colorful idioms in our everyday language to describe situations that are often not related to driving at all, but rather to the human experience.

Examples of Common Driving Idioms:

  • “Backseat driver”: Someone who tries to control a situation without being in charge.
  • “Kick into high gear”: To start working more effectively or quickly.
  • “Spin one’s wheels”: To waste time doing something without making progress.

Idioms like these are a testament to how deeply vehicle-related experiences are ingrained in our culture and language. We use them because they can be instantly relatable, offering a vivid image or idea that’s easy to understand.

17 Driving Idioms: Motoring Phrases You Should Understand Pin

List of Driving Idioms

All Roads Lead to Rome Hit the road
Drive Someone Up the Wall Driving me crazy
Backseat Driver Hit the brakes
In the Driver’s Seat Put the pedal to the metal
Drive someone around the bend Drive to distraction
Burn rubber Ride shotgun
Spinning your wheels Take the wheel
Running on fumes Hit the gas
Pump the brakes

Driving Idioms with Meaning and Example

Idioms Meanings and Example Sentences
Driving me crazy Causing someone to feel extremely annoyed or frustrated.

Example: “This noise is driving me crazy!”

Hit the brakes To slow down or stop an activity.

Example: “We need to hit the brakes on this project until we have a clearer plan.”

Put the pedal to the metal To go faster or to accelerate activity.

Example: “We’re behind schedule, so it’s time to put the pedal to the metal.

Drive someone around the bend To irritate or frustrate someone to an extreme degree.

Example: “His constant whistling is driving me round the bend.

Drive to distraction To cause someone to lose concentration or to become extremely agitated.

Example: “Her talking during the movie drove me to distraction.

Burn rubber To drive a car very fast, often with the tires spinning.

Example: “When the light turned green, he was ready to burn rubber.

Ride shotgun To sit in the front passenger seat of a vehicle.

Example: “I called it first—I get to ride shotgun!

Spinning your wheels To expend effort but make no progress; to get nowhere.

Example: “We’re just spinning our wheels with this discussion and not reaching a decision.”

Take the wheel To take control or assume the leadership role.

Example: “It’s time for you to take the wheel on this project.”

Running on fumes To continue to operate with very little energy or resources left.

Example: “I’m so tired; I’m just running on fumes now.”

Hit the gas To accelerate or speed up the pace of something.

Example: “We’re late, so hit the gas, and let’s get there as fast as we can!”

Pump the brakes To slow down or be more cautious in one’s approach.

Example: “You’re moving too fast with this relationship. You might want to pump the brakes.

Driving Idioms in Various Contexts

In the English language, we often use idioms to convey more than just the literal meaning of the words we choose. When it comes to driving idioms, we’re not always talking about operating a vehicle. Let’s explore a few of these colorful expressions and see how they apply to different areas of life.

All Roads Lead to Rome

  • Meaning: There are many different ways to achieve the same goal.
  • Use in Context: Whether we decide to cut costs or improve marketing, all roads lead to Rome when it comes to increasing profits.
  • Example: “There are many different ways to approach this problem, but all roads lead to Rome, so we will eventually find a solution.”

Drive Someone Up the Wall

  • Meaning: To greatly annoy or irritate someone.
  • Use in Context: The constant construction noise outside our office is driving us up the wall.
  • Example: “Her constant complaining about the project was starting to drive me up the wall.”

Backseat Driver

  • Meaning: Someone who gives unwanted advice, especially in a way that is annoying or presumptuous.
  • Use in Context: I appreciate your input, but I’d rather you not be a backseat driver during our meetings.
  • Example: “I can’t stand it when my mother-in-law acts like a backseat driver every time I’m behind the wheel.”

In the Driver’s Seat

  • Meaning: To be in control or to take charge of a situation.
  • Use in Context: Now that we’ve secured the investment, we’re in the driver’s seat for our project’s direction.
  • Example: “After receiving the promotion, she felt like she was finally in the driver’s seat of her career.”

Hit the road 

  • Meaning: To leave a place or begin a journey.
  • Use in Context: After saying our goodbyes, we decided it was time to hit the road and head back home.
  • Example: “We’ve got a long drive ahead of us, so we should probably hit the road early in the morning to avoid traffic.”