Sense of direction lost on male drivers

Article date: 14 March 2006

British male drivers are wasting 5.9 million1 hourseach year because of their reluctance to swallow their pride andadmit they are lost.

New research from RAC Direct Insurance shows that thenation’s 17.9 million2 male drivers are waiting astaggering 20 minutes each time they get lost before they’reprepared to stop and ask for directions. This is twice as long asfemale drivers who only wait 10 minutes before admitting they needhelp.

Male drivers are even prepared to endure a "nagging period" fromtheir partner of ten minutes before throwing in the towel, to stopand ask for directions.

Amarylis Fox, researcher in cognitive psychology from BradfordUniversity, said: “Men may be likely to try harder to findtheir destination when they’re lost than women, because oftheir perceived better navigational skills. However, when couplesdrive together male drivers are twice as likely to get behind thewheel, resigning their partners to the passenger seat to navigate,as women generally have better organisational skills.

“Research shows that men generally have better spatial skillsthan women, so when it comes to things like map reading andnavigating there’s added pressure on male drivers to performwell. This expectation to succeed at such tasks may make it moredifficult for men to admit when they’re lost, whereas femaledrivers may actually reach their destination quicker byacknowledging when they need help with directions.”

The "Are We Lost Yet" study also showed:

  • Male drivers struggling to get from A to B are also much moreinclined to suffer from increased stress and even road rage
  • Getting lost is often the most common cause of couples rowingin the car, with almost two-thirds (64%) of couples admitting tohaving such arguments
  • Only one-in-four couples plan their journeys before settingoff (27%)
  • Over a third of couples rely on landmarks and road signs tofind their destination (36%) 
  • One-in-four couples still scribble down basic directions on abit of scrap paper (25%)

Craig Martin, RAC Direct Insurance product manager, said:“The anxiety, increased stress levels and road rage that canbe caused by getting lost are unnecessary distractions ontoday’s busy roads when motorists need to be alert and ableto concentrate. They can easily be avoided, just by motoriststaking a bit more time to plan their journeys. New technology canalso help, with in-car satellite navigation systems becoming morepopular - around one-in-five drivers is using this technology formore efficient motoring.”

To help avoid unnecessary headaches from getting lost RACDirect Insurance has put together some top tips with Amarylis Foxor motorists can visit to use RAC’s routeplanner.

Top tips

  1. Recognise your own imperfections - we all have them and thereis no such thing as the perfect driver
  2. Like accidents, most arguments are not one-sided. Beingobjective and realising you may be in part to blame will helpresolve tensions faster, allowing you to move on from initialfeelings of anger
  3. If you think you are lost you probably are; accept the factand find a solution. Asking for directions is in no way anadmission of inadequacy
  4. Resist temptation to criticise each other. Men may begenerally better at performing spatial tasks, giving themadvantages when parking and even map reading, but women are betterat organising, allowing them to multi-task in the car
  5. Eliminate possible distractions. Flapping around with CDs andmobiles, repeatedly changing channels on the radio, trying to eatwhilst driving can all lead to an increasing strain on yourattention, raising the risk of accidents
  6. Maps were sent to test us. It’s no surprise then thatoccasionally people will struggle to read one. Try not to getannoyed, arguing will raise tension and increase blood pressure; aresult of the stress
  7. Finally, a car can be a luxurious toy. Often good looking andrepairable when broken; remember, the same is not automaticallytrue of its owner!

RAC Direct Insurance is also giving motorists with satellitenavigation equipment the opportunity to receive discounts on theirmotor insurance premiums.


1-2 = Office of National Statistics2004

RAC commissioned YouGov to conduct research amongst 2,000 male andfemale drivers aged 18–50+ across the UK between 28 Februaryto 2 March 2006.

RAC Press office contact:
James Ruane at LexisPR on 0207 908 6402
Jasmine Agbulos at Lexis PR on 0207 908 6474
Tess Richardson at RAC Press Office on 0208 917 2980
Main RAC press office on 0208 917 2742

Notes to editors:

About RAC
With around seven millionmembers, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoringorganizations, providing services for both private and businessmotorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, windscreen repair andreplacement, learning to drive, vehicle inspections, legal andfinancial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travelinformation - RAC is able to meet motorists’ needs.

Aviva bought RAC last year. The acquisition brings together RAC'spowerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leadingposition in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part ofAviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuringone-in-seven motor vehicles and with a market share of around14%.

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