99c80f5f 219b 4a9f b674 a59cb0f897ea backseat+driver

Back-seat drivers: the worst offenders, revealed

Latest car guides

July 13th 2022 info fun

We’ve all been there. You’re driving along with your passengers chatting away when all of a sudden, you make a small mistake. Whether it’s a late indication or just clipping the kerb, there’s always that one person that pipes up to critique your driving style.

Characterised by anger, judgement and sometimes sarcasm, back-seat drivers are the bane of all drivers’ existence. Shouting unsolicited advice and generally being a bit of a nuisance, it’s safe to say that their contributions to the journey usually go ignored; and for good reason.

Distractions on car journeys can be fatal, so to set the record straight, we’ve decided to research the back-seat driver phenomenon. To do this, we asked questions to over 2,000 UK drivers, hoping to get a better idea of who back-seat drivers are, what they do and where they’re most common.

Back-seat drivers: who they are and what they do

Who is the biggest back-seat driver?

When asked about who is the worst offender for back-seat driving, our respondents quickly settled on one demographic. Taking in over 18% of the votes, it appears as though male partners are the most common back-seat drivers in the UK.

Interestingly, this also pointed out somewhat of a war of the sexes, with 25% of men claiming their wives and girlfriends to be the worst, and 29% of women stating it to be their boyfriends and husbands. Amidst this, there does appear to be one thing that men and women closely agree on: children. 10% of men and 13% of women state their child as being the biggest back-seat drivers in their lives.

When it comes to parents, there’s one clear winner: 13% of respondents stated their Mum as being the biggest back-seat driver, with just 8% claiming it to be their Dad.

What is the most annoying back-seat driving habit?

Imagine trying your best to concentrate on a winding country road when you have someone craning their neck over your shoulder to watch your speed. There’s no pressure like it, and there are multiple other things that back-seat drivers do to grind our gears.

The top two most annoying habits of back seat drivers are speed checking and unnecessary gasping, taking in 18% and 17% of the votes respectively. This is perfectly understandable, as sudden loud noises like gasps can act as a short and sharp distraction, while speed checking places great amounts of pressure on our vigilance while driving.

Completing the top five most annoying habits with 12% of the vote is passengers telling us we’re too close to the car in front, pressing down on a fake brake pedal with 10%, and giving advanced warning about red lights taking in 9%.

What phrase is used most commonly by back-seat drivers?

Conversation is a real delight on a casual drive. While some can divert our attention, for the most part, having a good ol’ chin wag is a much-needed bonding activity for drivers. However, with back-seat drivers, things can quickly get heated, with a few choice phrases coming out every now and then.

Here are the top five most commonly said phrases by back-seat drivers:

  •  There's a car there: 17.11%
  • You should've gone the other way: 16.23%
  • You're going a bit fast: 15.20%
  • You could get a double-decker bus through that: 13.96%
  • You're a bit close to that car: 13.89%

Spatial awareness is a recurring theme in these phrases, with three of the statements referring to distance and overall visibility when maneuvering a car. This gives us a glimpse of the main concerns that these vocal passengers have.

The most annoying passenger activities

As some supplementary information, we also decided to look at the annoying habits of passengers in general. For those of us with lacking geographical skills, getting from A to B can feel like a major challenge. This is when a competent passenger becomes invaluable to road journeys.

So, it makes total sense as to why the most annoying thing that passengers can do to drivers is to give wrong directions. 22% of drivers claimed this to be their most annoying activity, with it standing head and shoulders out from the rest.

It appears as though some passengers can get a little too comfy in their driver’s presence, with 17% of those surveyed saying that people putting their feet up on the dashboard is the most annoying passenger activity (and we tend to agree).

No one likes to admit they're back-seat drivers

Perhaps the most interesting discovery we made through this research was a lack of admittance to being back-seat drivers. Over 52% of those surveyed denied being back-seat drivers, while just 26% proudly admitted to being one.

Why do people think they're back-seat drivers?

Those few that did admit to being a back-seat driver had a certain urge to get off their chest. Ultimately, the temptation driving back-seat drivers to shout commands revolves around control. When you’re being driven to a destination with no input on when you get there, how and what you do along the way, passengers can feel a distinct lack of control over the situation.

39% of back-seat drivers admit that they act this way because they like to feel like they’re in control, yet 37% cannot even fathom a solid reason for doing it, chocking it up to helplessness.

How do drivers deal with back-seat drivers?

Now, it’s very well and fair to recognise that you have a back-seat driver in your midst. But what do you do once you’ve identified them? Well, let’s find out.

It turns out that drivers believe that ignorance is bliss when it comes to back-seat drivers. Half of our respondents said that they just ignore the woes of back-seat drivers, even despite their incessant chanting. In stark contrast, 20% of respondents said they argue back with back-seat drivers.

How do back-seat drivers impact journeys?

Anger and frustration aside, back-seat drivers cause much more than just hard feelings during a trip. As a result of the constant interruptions, 36% of our respondents said that back-seat drivers cause arguments in the car, while 18% of them stated that they have lost their way along a commute.

All of this shows that, while back-seat drivers may not necessarily know what they’re doing wrong, there are some real consequences to such actions.

What makes a perfect passenger?

If you fancy yourself as a back-seat driver and are looking to change your ways, drivers have some kind words of advice to help you reform.

52% of drivers said that the perfect passenger stays calm throughout a journey; 44% said they are good with directions; 39% said that good passengers don’t make any passing comments; 36% said that taking rubbish out the car with them is much appreciated, and 24% praised a quiet passenger for not disrupting the journey.

How would drivers describe back-seat drivers?

Now comes the time for the drivers to have a say. When asked about the personality traits of back-seat drivers, our respondents didn’t mince their words.

45% of respondents called back-seat drivers annoying, 33% called them controlling, 16% called them obnoxious, and, surprisingly, 10% called them helpful.

Those first three traits are certainly hard-hitting and paint a clear picture as to the type of person that would likely be a back seat driver. Do you know someone like that?

Are drivers just as bad as back-seat drivers?

Of course, none of this is to say that drivers themselves are angels. Us humans are very critical when it comes to others, especially while on the road. Road rage is a real problem in the UK, with an estimated 40% of drivers experiencing some form of road rage.

While in these anger-fuelled stages, some choice words are undoubtedly going to be spoken. So, when asked about the phrases used most about other drivers, it appears that poor indication is the biggest bugbear of all with 46% of those surveyed admitting to sarcastically shouting “Nice indication!” when someone fails to indicate.

Other commonly spoken phrases include:

  •  “Don’t worry, we’ve got all day!” – 29%
  • “Could get a double decker bus through that” – 29%
  • “Why have you stopped?” – 27%
  • “How on earth did you pass your test?” – 25%

Does location factor in back-seat driving?

With all this information acquired, our curiosity about back-seat driving continued to grow. So, to figure out if there were other variables at play, we added some location-based questioning to our survey:

Where are the worst places to drive in the UK?

When drivers get confused, they make mistakes; when they make mistakes, passengers yell.

If you’re really looking to escape the array of bad remarks left by your passengers, perhaps making your drive a bit easier could help. In the UK, there are all sorts of puzzling road markings that are unique to certain locations, with the famed Gravelly Hill Interchange (also known as Spaghetti Junction) in Birmingham being one of the most notoriously confusing stretches of road in the country.

So, could a simple change of location be the solution to your back-seat driver woes? We asked our respondents where in the UK they thought was the worst place to drive. This should give you a few places to cross off your immediate road trip list for the time being.

As no surprise to anyone, Greater London emerged as the worst place to drive in the UK with 30% of the vote. In second place is West Midlands with 6% of the vote, while third place is taken by the North West with 5%. Here’s the full list of the worst places to drive in the UK as voted by you:

  • Greater London - 30.47%
  • West Midlands - 6.53%
  • North West - 5.29%
  • South East - 4.64%
  • Yorkshire and the Humber - 3.79%
  • East Midlands - 3.59%
  • South West - 3.59%
  • Scotland - 3.49%
  • Wales - 2.89%
  • East of England - 2.59%
  • North East - 2.59%
  • Northern Ireland - 1.25%

Where are the UKs worst drivers located?

We’re all critics in our own right. As previously mentioned, sometimes we drivers can’t help but make a passing comment about someone else’s bad driving. So, we wondered if our driver criticisms were also bound to locations.

We asked our respondents where in the UK has the worst drivers, which gave us some interesting results.

It seems as though London has a bit of a trend going on – not only has it now been named the worst place to drive, but London also has the worst drivers in it with 25% of respondents claiming London drivers to be the worst in the UK. In second place is the South East with 6%; North West claims third with 5.4%; West Midlands takes fourth with 5.1%; and Yorkshire and the Humber takes fifth with 3.8%.

So, where does your hometown stack up? Here are the worst drivers by location in the UK:

  • No particular region - 33.17%
  • Greater London - 25.44%
  • South East - 6.28%
  • North West - 5.49%
  • West Midlands - 5.19%
  • Yorkshire and the Humber - 3.84%
  • South West - 3.64%
  • East of England - 3.54%
  • East Midlands - 3.19%
  • North East - 3.19%
  • Scotland - 3.14%
  • Wales - 2.34%
  • Northern Ireland - 1.55%

Driving guidance and advice from findandfundmycar.com

Maybe you fancy yourself as a back-seat driver, or perhaps there’s one in your life that really needs to stop. Whatever the situation is, we hope this blog post has given you some good food for thought on the subject.

Are you in need of a new car? Browse used cars at findandfundmycar.com today. We work with dealer partners up and down the UK that stock high quality models everyday.

Latest car guides

over 120,000 quality used vehicles, from up to 2,200 trusted dealers

We'll use your criteria to show you personalised quotations to suit your needs.

are you sure?

you’re about to remove this vehicle from your list. Are you sure this is what you wanted to do?


We'd like to keep you up-to-date!

We'd like to send you some occasional news, reviews and offers. We also have some trusted partners who'd like to do the same. Please choose from below, what you are comfortable with.

Email & SMS

Don't forget to create an account or sign in to save vehicles to your profile.