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Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Posted
5 SEPTEMBER 2023
7 min read
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The UK’s Top 10 Most Confusing and Stressful Cities to Drive in

Driving in a city can be very stressful. ​​Traffic is more congested, roads are often narrow or confusing, it’s easier to get lost, and there are also things like bus lanes, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, and cyclists to contend with.  
 
With this in mind, we’ve conducted new research to reveal which cities across the UK are the most stressful and confusing to drive in. We surveyed over 2,000 UK drivers to determine which locations they find the most confusing, and which they find most stressful, and the reasons why this might be. We also looked at the congestion levels, road quality, and number of accidents in each city, to determine the top 10 most stressful and confusing cities for motorists across the country.  
 
Our survey also looked into the most common causes of road rage - and with over one-sixth (​​14%) of drivers citing driving in a city centre as the scenario most likely to cause them irritation on the roads, we’ve also provided some top tips for staying calm behind the wheel. 

Top 10 most stressful and confusing cities  

Rank City Population % of drivers who find city confusing to drive in  % of drivers who find city stressful to drive in  Congestion levels (miles of traffic per year)  % of roads roads that do or may need work soon  No. of accidents per 10,000 people
1 London 8,961,989 63% 45% 19,014,462,235 27% 26
2 Birmingham 984,333 51% 29% 3,583,939,556 27% 22
3 Bristol 617,280 41% 18% 1,403,683,585 79% 14
4 Leeds 455,123 43% 17% 4,067,532,708 12% 31
5 Manchester 395,515 47% 26% 1,618,770,866 20% 18
6 Nottingham 321,500 34% 15% 1,058,171,408 58% 20
7 Bradford 299,310 35% 13% 1,447,935,785 0% 35
8 Southend-on-Sea 295,310 30% 11% 388,323,712 63% 8
9 Derby 270,468 30% 11% 1,196,171,912 30% 19
10 Kingston upon Hull 314,019 37% 11% ​​​731,019,636  24% 19

With a population of nearly ​9 million, it’s no surprise ​​London has topped the list as the most stressful and confusing UK city to drive in. Two-thirds ​(63%) of drivers admit to finding it ​​confusing to navigate their way around the capital by car. The number one reason for this being motorists think there is ​​too much traffic in the city, with ​​45% of drivers stating this to be the case. Almost half (​45%) of drivers also find it ​stressful to drive in London, and again the main reason for this is because of ​​too much congestion (​43%). Given that the city saw ​19 billion miles of traffic last year, the highest number of all cities analysed, this is perhaps not surprising.

A quarter ​​(25%) of motorists also say that ​other drivers being careless is a cause of confusion in the capital, making this the second most common reason why people think London is a little perplexing to drive in. The city saw the second highest number of accidents per 10,000 people last year on its roads, at 26, so drivers in the city do need to ensure they stay vigilant and drive as carefully as possible. It’s also interesting to note, those aged between ​17 and 24, say the main reason they find it stressful to navigate round London is because ​the city has too many cyclists (​29%).   

2. Birmingham 

​Birmingham has ranked as the ​second most stressful and confusing city for motorists​,​ with half of drivers (​51%) saying it’s ​confusing to drive in the city. As with London, the main reason for this is ​because of the traffic, with ​24% of drivers saying the congestion is the number one reason they find it a little baffling. The second most common cause is because drivers feel they ​don’t know the roads well enough (​21%), while those aged between ​​17 and 24 think the main reason is because ​Birmingham has too many bus lanes (18%).

One-third ​​(29%) of drivers also find the West Midlands city stressful to drive in, and the main reason for this is also ​due to the congestion (​30%). Birmingham saw ​​3.6 billion miles of traffic in 2022, which, while ​nowhere near as much as London, is the second highest amount of all cities analysed.  

3. Bristol 

In ​​third place is ​Bristol, with ​41% of drivers saying they find it ​confusing to drive here. However, significantly less motorists say they find it ​stressful, with just ​18% stating this to be the case.

Not knowing the roads well enough (​24%) is the main reason that drivers find it confusing to drive in the city, and a quarter (​25%) of drivers also cite this as the reason they find it stressful.

Despite the city seeing the lowest amount of congestion (​1.4 billion miles) of all cities in the top five, nearly one-fifth (​​18%) of motorists find Bristol confusing to drive in because of ​how much traffic there is on the roads. A further quarter ​(25%) of drivers say this is why they find it stressful. The fact that ​​the road signage isn’t clear enough (18%) is also a common cause of confusion on Bristol’s roads.

In terms of the road conditions, there are much fewer accidents here than in the rest of the top five cities, with only ​14 incidents per every 10,000 people happening in 2021. However, the city has the poorest road quality of all locations analysed, with ​79% of its roads deemed to be either red or amber, ​which is a marker that they should be considered for maintenance.

4. Leeds 

The ​fourth most ​frustrating city to drive in is ​Leeds. Two-fifths (43%) of drivers find the northern city ​​confusing to navigate, although just ​​17% find it ​stressful.

The main reason that drivers feel confused when driving in Leeds is because ​they don’t know the roads well enough (​22%), and this is also the top cause of stress too, with ​​25% of motorists stating this to be the case. Interestingly though, those aged between ​17 and 24 feel most stressed on the roads because of ​big junctions (​24%), while those aged between ​25 and 34 are more concerned about confusing roundabouts (​25%).

While the road quality is much better in Leeds than in the rest of the top five confusing and stressful cities, with just 12% of its roads ​deemed to be needing maintenance, the city does see the highest number of accidents per 10,000 people, with ​31 incidents reported in 2021.  

5. Manchester  

Rounding off the top five most confusing and stressful UK cities to drive in is ​​Manchester. Nearly half (​47%) of drivers surveyed think it’s a confusing place to drive, and over a quarter (​26%) of motorists find it a ​stressful city to navigate.

The city saw ​​1.6 billion miles of traffic in 2022, and the main cause of both stress (​​31%) and confusion (​24%) for motorists in Manchester is because of this ​​congestion. However, those aged between ​17 and 24 cited ​too many bus lanes (​​20%) as the main catalyst of confusion.

Most common reasons for road rage 

When we get stressed on the roads, we tend to also get a little irritated, and road rage is relatively common for drivers in the UK. In fact, our recent road rage report revealed that almost ​two in three (62%) drivers have experienced it before. With this in mind, our survey has delved a little deeper into the most common sources of driver frustrations.

The most common causes of road rage are ​being tailgated, and ​a driver cutting you off and forcing you to change course, with one-third (​33%) of drivers citing these issues as their main sources of frustration while on the roads.

This is followed by: ​other motorists not indicating on a roundabout (​23%), ​traffic jams (​19%), and ​motorists forgetting to turn off high beams when driving at night (​18%). ​​Driving through a city centre also results in road rage in one in six motorists (​​14%). 

Top tips for city driving  


As our research has shown, there are a variety of reasons why people find driving in a city challenging. To help combat this, Julie Daniels from our car insurance team, has put together some top tips for making city driving as stress-free as possible.

1. Plan your journey

Before you head into the city, the best thing you can do is thoroughly plan your trip. Make sure you have an idea of the route you’ll take, and look into whether there’s any congestion or roadworks you might come up against.

If you don’t know the roads very well, using a navigation app can be really helpful, and it will even re-route automatically if you miss a turn, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost.

Make sure to also avoid rush hour if you’re worried about getting caught in traffic, and check whether you’ll need to pay any congestion or clean air charges ahead of time, so you don’t risk any unnecessary fines.

2. Give yourself extra time

Getting stuck in traffic can be incredibly stressful, especially when you’re already late. Leaving yourself a bit of wiggle room means it won’t matter if you take a wrong turn or come up against congestion in the city.

If you do find yourself stuck in traffic though, try not to let it irritate you too much. Just remember that it happens to the best of us, and above anything it’s important to stay focused and calm behind the wheel.

3. Maintain concentration

Driving in a city often means added distractions, so keep your eyes on the road and use your mirrors to ensure you’re aware of what’s around you, especially when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists.

Make sure you also keep an eye on the signage in the city, an avoid driving into any bus or taxi lanes – otherwise you could risk some pretty hefty fines.

Also, even if traffic is slow-moving, keep a good stopping distance from the car in front at all times to ensure you have enough time to react if traffic speed changes.

4. Keep your cool 

Above all, try and remain calm. Whether you like listening to calming music, practising deep breathing, or using rescue remedy sweets, do whatever you need to keep yourself cool behind the wheel.

There will usually always be other cars on the road, so don’t let this ruffle you. Stay composed and make sure to drive as carefully as possible, to ensure you and other drivers are safe at all times, no matter where you’re heading.  

Methodology & Sources 

Compare the Market pulled together a seedlist of the 25 most populated cities in the UK.

A survey of 2,012 UK licence holders was then conducted to determine the percentage of drivers who find each city to be confusing or stressful to drive in. 

The cities were then ranked based on the survey data and the following metrics:

Julie Daniels - motor insurance comparison expert

Julie is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and rewarding people for saving on their insurance through our loyalty and rewards programme. She’s spoken to the media, including outlets like Sky News and Capital FM, about car and home insurance, as well as our rewards scheme.

Learn more about Julie