What's the meaning of "terror behind the wheel" in the following context?

As I write these words, this book hasn't yet gone to press, and already there are so many people working to support it. Sheryl Johnson, who is a great publicist and a terror behind the wheel. Buzz Yancey, who tried to create, well, buzz...

(taken from Acknowledgements of "A Dog's Purpose" by W.Bruce Cameron)

  • 1
    I would think very competitive, like a race car driver.
    – Bread
    Jun 19 '18 at 10:17
  • 1
    @Bread But it can also mean that he is a very bad driver, isn't it? I haven't found no reference for your positive meaning.
    – RubioRic
    Jun 19 '18 at 10:24
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    @RubioRic but it's strange to mention this in acknowledgements... He is thanking them all for their great contribution...
    – Enguroo
    Jun 19 '18 at 10:40
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    Yes I agree, it is a joke between the writer and the publicist, also probably to create an effect of contrast between,: you are a great publicist .....but a bad driver ( said with respect and affection probably). Whatever the case, terror behind the wheel here means “bad driver”.
    – user 66974
    Jun 19 '18 at 10:47
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    @RubioRic ~ an "internal joke" would be at least a little bit rude, in addition to being somewhat deceptive -- and would require a great logical leap to 'get it'. Not saying it doesn't occur, but it would be ambiguous which is something great communicators and sales reps usually should try to avoid.
    – Bread
    Jun 19 '18 at 10:51

It would mean "driving like a maniac":

This is from an article headlined BOBBI KRISTINA'S BF ARRESTED Terror Behind the Wheel: "Bobbi Kristina's boyfriend Nick Gordon was arrested for driving like a maniac last night ... hours after Whitney Houston's daughter totaled a Chevy Camaro in a frightening wreck of her own."

Another article sports the headline: MIRANDA COSGROVE: TRUSTED MOTORIST OR TERROR BEHIND THE WHEEL?, so a terror behind a wheel is definitely not a trusted motorist or careful driver.

On Yahoo Answers, the question "Are you a good driver?" elicits one answer "Well no..I am a terror behind the wheel..nobody lets me drive..it boggles my mind.."

EDIT: I have found no mention of competitive driving. The sequence is also occasionally used in relation with terrorist attacks, but not as a noun phrase like this. Instead you will find something along the lines of a ride of terror behind the wheel, where terror is not the head of the phrase.

  • Why would the author mention that his publicist drives like a maniac in the acknowledgements section of his book?
    – Enguroo
    Jun 19 '18 at 10:42
  • It could be a tongue-in-cheek comment. She's a great publicist, but a terrible driver. Jun 19 '18 at 10:44
  • Well, I think you are right. It seems to be the only possible explanation. Thank you very much for your answer!
    – Enguroo
    Jun 19 '18 at 10:51
  • This is a literal interpretation of what must have been intended as a very colorful metaphor. There is absolutely no context for a publisher's driving skill, in a book review. It would have been so off-topic and unprofessional. To say that it could have a literal meaning in that particular context, is baseless and unfounded.
    – Bread
    Jun 19 '18 at 11:01
  • 1
    @Bread It's in the acknowledgements. You'll often find tongue-in-cheek comments in there. Like the following pun on Buzz' name. I agree that it would be out of place in a book review. Jun 19 '18 at 11:08

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