Read our driver profiles and how to survive if your partner matches one of them

Back seat drivers, bickerers and more – which of these sums up your partner’s driving personality

If trips with your beloved feel more road to hell than ride of your life, you’re not alone…

There’s something about car journeys that can bring out the worst in people. It’s not surprising – you’re trapped in a confined space, you’re usually under some kind of time pressure, you're unprepared for any car malfunctions, you’ve got a limited array of snacks and entertainment… in fact, when you take all this into account it’s hard to imagine why road trips were ever considered romantic.

But, trips with your other half are unavoidable – and thankfully driving instructor Gary Burgess, who knows more than most about being locked in moving vehicles under tense conditions (at least he gets paid though), has a few tips on getting from A to B with your relationship in tact, no matter how many bumps in the road there may be. First, though, you need to work out which one of these common offenders your partner – or indeed, you – might be…

The Ranter

Usually, your partner is a gentle soul who cries at Bake Off and refuses to squash spiders. But you soon realise that they reserve all their aggressive impulses for one place: the car. Eek.

Typical scenario: “You could get a bus through there!” And then there are the hand gestures, their disregard for safe braking distances and their love of the horn. If you dare point out they’re being a tad “feisty”, suddenly you find yourself on the receiving end of a barrage of expletives too.

couple arguing in car

Gary's advice

“You need to be calm and calculated to think straight when you drive. But when you’re angry it affects your mood and then other drivers too. A passenger can encourage the driver to pull over in a safe space to have a little respite from the situation before it escalates, but the driver should also know to do that.”

The intrepid explorer

Driver always knows best. Except, in this case, they really, really don’t. It seems your partner fancies themselves as a modern day Columbus, with the confidence to explore the world unencumbered by maps. Unfortunately you’re now trapped down a dead end some 26 miles from where you’re supposed to be in five minutes. 

Typical scenario: “Trust me, I’ve got a really good sense of direction… ah yes, this looks familiar…. No, wait, they’ve changed it… hold on a sec…” Meanwhile, you’re sitting beside them, sneakily looking at Google maps and despairing. When you pipe up that you think they were meant to turn right three junctions ago, you get your head bitten off.

If you’re planning a driving trip abroad, check out these things you ought to know first. Planning on taking the kids? Then, check out our guide to surviving a family trip.

couple reading a map

Gary’s advice

“It’s harder to argue with a satnav! Planning in advance is a surefire way of making a journey safer, as the driver - and passenger - will know in advance what to expect.”

The good news is, the government will soon be adding satnav awareness into the official driving test so that our roads have “better, safer motorists”, plus many car insurance policies will typically cover a removable satnav, though it’s best to stash it away when stopping for a long time. Just remember, “it’s only a guide – use your eyes and your judgment too”.

The back seat driver

Never mind astrology – driving styles are a far more accurate way to tell if two people are compatible, and this guy or gal is the worst possible partner for the intrepid explorer. Whether their “helpful advice” is needed or not, they just can’t help themselves.

Typical scenario: It’s like you’ve switched on the director’s commentary. “Ooh, that was a close one”, “Wouldn’t it be quicker to go the other way?”, “Do you think you should put the windscreen wipers on?”. If you’ve asked them to navigate, fair enough, but otherwise all this chat is an annoying distraction and can easily blow-up into a big barney.

avoiding arguing on road trip

Gary’s advice

“Before going on a long journey, find out what it’s going to entail. You can map out your journey online and work out what the big junctions will be, which lane you have to be in. Passengers should be told by the driver to alert them of any directions as soon as they come up. So if you’ve just joined a motorway, it’s good to be told how many miles you can expect to be on there for, or how many junctions. That said, it’s much more the driver’s responsibility to be aware of where they’re going.”

The secret slob

They reliably empty the dishwasher every now and again and almost always remember to wear deodorant, but somehow their car is a complete pigsty. Old water bottles, crisp packets, toys, discarded bits of clothing, paperwork…. not only can a messy car attract thieves, but seemingly harmless items can become deadly missiles in an accident – and if you’ve got kids, this could be a big concern. But try getting them to listen…

Typical scenario: You’re headed off to a wedding together in all your finery when you find yourself sitting on a mouldy banana skin. It’s the final straw. “This is disgusting!” you scream. Now they’re defensive.

car wash

Gary’s advice

“If you have plastic bottles everywhere and slam the brakes on, they can end up in the footwell under the pedals, and then the pedals don’t function. Not only that, if you see something shift around, your eyes will pick up on it and that can distract you, even in that split second you’re distracted from the road, something could happen. Your car doesn’t have to be pristine, but you don’t want things rolling around. Plus, tell them it’s a security risk – make sure everything’s out of sight, locked in the boot or in the glove compartment. When my car was broken into, they took all the loose change, my daughter’s football boots and my late mother’s disabled badge. Once a thief’s in your car, they can take anything, even if you don’t think it’s of huge value. There’s even a risk of identity fraud if important papers are in sight.”

The one who’s full of hot air

If you spend your evening snuggled on the sofa under layers of blankets, chances are you like to keep a warm and cosy car too. But while some people feel more alert if they drive with a window open, or at least with the air con on, others prefer the comfort that comes from whacking up the heating and pretending they’re in a Turkish spa rather than stuck on a gridlocked M1. And differences about these things can inspire extreme rage.

Typical scenario: “I’m flipping freezing!”, “But I’m boiling – and I’m the one who’s driving! Put a jumper on!”. There’s not much middle ground here to resolve your woes, other than getting separate forms of transport, which is usually not financially, logistically or environmentally advisable.


Gary’s advice

Layer up – unless you’re driving. “When we’re going on long trips, my family take jumpers, maybe even a blanket with them, to stay warm while I remain a bit cooler.”

The marathon (wo)man

If one of you prefers to plan stop-offs on long journeys, while the other likes getting it over and done with in one long stint, it can lead to tension. If you’ve got a family car with kids, their bladders, appetites and/or hysterical crying can often make this decision for you, but otherwise you can find yourself in a stand-off with your partner.

Typical scenario: “I need a wee”, “Sat nav says we’ll be there in 106 minutes, can’t you hold it in?”, “I’m hungry”, “there’s some mints in the glovebox”, “I WANT TO STOP AT PEPPA PIG WORLD”, “no”. There are all sorts of reasons why one of you might want to break up your journey. But if the driver doesn’t want to stop, they won’t stop. Control freak much? And they don’t like it when you tell them that there’s a link between long drives (particularly in the dark) and accidents, with 20% of motorway crashes being caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel.


services sign

Gary's advice

Gary agrees you shouldn’t drive for too long without a break as it is unsafe. He adds: “You shouldn’t be driving if you’re feeling unwell, or tired, or have had an argument. Pull over in a safe place and have a nap, a coffee, an energy drink, whatever it takes to get you alert again.”

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