The Tussle To Control The Steering Wheel:

If you’re travelling by car to the beach, the countryside or abroad this summer, who will be in charge of the vehicle and making most of the decisions? The obvious answer would seem to be whoever is doing the driving – but a recent investigation conducted by Privilege Car Insurance, cited by the Sunday Times on 28th May, has indicated that this is often not at all the situation. On the contrary, the survey of 2,000 motorists revealed that arguments invariably break out between them and their passengers within 18 minutes of the start of the journey – the biggest reason initially being about which route to take and “bickering over whether to turn left or right”.

As Gil Warburton, a contributor to the Car Leasing UK website commented with some puzzlement on 27th May. “These days, with many of us using sat-nav’s to find the way to our destination, you’d have thought that peace and harmony would finally have taken over in our cars. But maybe we just love to quarrel with each other”. Warburton also observed that a third of the people questioned stated that, outside of the home, the car is the place where they feel most stressed.

Charlotte Fielding, the head of Privilege Car Insurance, has pointed out that although tensions can arise from apparently trivial issues such as the occupant of the other front-seat rummaging through the glove compartment, the main cause tends to be advice being offered by one or more passengers in the back of the car.

Wisegeek.com defines a “backseat driver” as a person who spends much of the trip in an unofficial co-pilot role, vociferously criticising the skills of the actual driver, shouting instructions to him or her and issuing superfluous warnings about potential or imagined road hazards. Lewis Kemp, a marketing official with Connect Insurance, notes that it’s usually someone who would prefer to be in control of the car rather than sitting as a passenger.

Kemp provides a list of 25 types of behaviour associated with such people, among them: Complaining that the driver is going too fast (or slow) or is too close to the vehicle in front; telling the driver which lane they should be in; pressing an imaginary brake pedal; getting impatient at traffic lights; disagreeing with the SatNav; clasping their hands over their face or closing their eyes frequently; gasping at any slight braking; loudly reading out road signs; complaining whenever the car is stuck in traffic or that the ride is too bumpy.

Data from a different survey, of 1000 motorists, carried out by Budget Insurance, suggests that one in five of people in Britain consider their partner to be a terrible driver – so much so that 26% of them refuse even to get into the car with them and 68% who are reluctantly prepared to do so a “ bite their tongue when their partner makes a blunder, to avoid a confrontation”.

According to Budget Insurance, men get upset with their partner if they drive in the wrong gear or too slowly, lack confidence to overtake other cars, take too long to get out of a junction, brake too late or too hard and park too far from the kerb. Whereas (they say), women get annoyed with their partner if they tailgate (are too near the car in front), drive too fast – especially in country lanes or on motorways, put up the music on the radio to a high volume, continuously honk the horn, dangerously overtake other cars or indulge in road rage.

Michelle Megna, a correspondent for Insurance.com has quoted another investigation, commissioned by the company, which found that 40% of husbands say their wives are the most annoying backseat drivers, followed by friends (17%) and mothers (15%) and that 34% of wives regard their husbands as their most irritating passengers, followed by mothers (18%) and friends (15%). Included in Insurance.com’s compilation of annoying passenger attitudes are: making faces and gestures, blocking the rear view mirror, grabbing the car’s handles, getting car sick, telling the driver to turn when it’s already too late and giving incorrect directions.

Yet another survey of 2,000 motorists, this time by the car insurance retailer Swinton, has concluded that men are officially the worst backseat drivers because they adopt bullying tactics to compensate for the fact that have been removed from the dominant role of controlling a car- consequently 68% of all the drivers questioned declared they’d prefer to have women as passengers.

The UK’s Highway Code specifies that drivers should “avoid distractions such as trying to read maps, tuning the radio, eating, drinking or smoking and arguing with passengers”. Concentration, it emphasizes, is of paramount importance. Statistics for 2018 provided by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) show that there are 38.2 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain – 4.5 million of which are light or heavy goods vehicles, 1.2 million motorcycles, but with the overwhelming majority, 31.5 million (82.5%) being private cars.

Filed under: Travel | Posted on June 18th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon

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