Perilous passengers put roads at risk

Article date: 4 September 2007

Naughty children, backseat drivers and barking dogs are driving three in five motorists to distraction and putting lives at risk, according to new research out today.

The research by Norwich Union, the UK's biggest insurer, highlights the effect dangerous passengers can have on the nation's driving skills, with 19% saying that one annoying passenger is enough to cause them to lose concentration. Other highlights from the report include:

  • Nearly one in 10 drivers (8%) who have been involved in an accident say a passenger was to blame
  • One in four drivers have taken their eyes off the road because of a distracting passenger
  • More than one in three say they have lost their concentration because of a distracting passenger.

The study identifies British motorists' most "perilous passengers":

  1. Screaming children and crying babies
  2. Children fighting
  3. Backseat drivers
  4. Barking and/or excited dogs
  5. Passengers who constantly change the music, or fiddle with the temperature controls.

It is not just lapses in concentration that are endangering driver and passenger safety. One in 10 drivers admit that they have lost their temper and shouted at passengers for distracting them, with the South West home to the most hot-tempered drivers in the UK. Drivers in the North West are most likely to take their eyes off the road because of a distracting passenger, while Londoners are four times more likely to be distracted by a passenger than those living in the South West.

Nigel Bartram, motor underwriting manager, Norwich Union says: "Many drivers don't realise the impact passengers can have on their driving skills and concentration. Not only can these distractions be a cause of annoyance, they also have the potential to cause a road accident.

"Our advice is if you are finding a passenger's behaviour distracting, find a safe spot and pull over and do not start driving until the situation is under control."

Here are Norwich Union Insurance's top tips on how you can keep distracting passengers at bay and have a safe, distraction-free journey:

  • Agree your in-car etiquette. Speak to all your passengers before the trip and outline the dos and don'ts for the journey, and remind them how dangerous it can be to distract the driver
  • Plan regular breaks. This will not only be a welcome opportunity for passengers to stretch their legs, but will be an opportunity for you to rest, re-energise and refocus on the journey ahead
  • Keep them entertained. If you are driving a long distance, make sure you pack travel games and books to keep young children entertained. For older children and adults it may also be worth creating a music play list before you set off that all passengers can enjoy, to avoid any disagreements about the music
  • Keep them comfortable. Take cushions and blankets to encourage napping
  • Get them used to travelling. If your dog isn't accustomed to car travel, break him or her in gradually well in advance of the trip by taking short trips in your car
  • Stay composed and focused. Some motorists find adding a few drops of lavender oils to your car seat can help to ease stress.


Press office contacts:
Sophie Lam, Lexis PR
Telephone: 020 7908 6482  

Erik Nelson, Norwich Union Press Office
Telephone: 01603 682 264

Notes to editors:

*ICM research interviewed 744 British drivers between 2 and 5 August 2007

British motorist's most perilous passengers

  1. Screaming children and crying babies
  2. Children fighting
  3. Backseat drivers
  4. Barking and/or excited dogs
  5. Passengers who constantly change the music, or fiddle with the temperature controls
  6. Car sick passengers
  7. A nagging mother-in-law
  8. A moaning partner
  9. Passengers trying to give you directions
  10. Passengers who can't keep still

Key findings by region

Motorists who feel frequently distracted by passengers in their vehicle

1.  North West (22%)

2.  West Midlands (19%)

2.  East (19%)

4.  Yorkshire (16%)

4.  Scotland (16%)

6.  North East (15%)

Motorists who admit that a distracting passenger has caused them to take their eye off the road

1.  North West (24%)

2.  South East (21%)

3.  London (20%)

4.  North East (17%)

5.  Scotland (13%)

Motorists who are most likely to lose their concentration because of a distracting passenger

1.  Wales (35%)

2.  West Midlands (29%)

3.  North West (25%)

=4.  South West (21%)

=4.  Yorkshire (21%)

=4.  North East (21%)

= 7. Scotland (20%)

= 7.  South East (20%)

Motorists who are most likely to lose their temper and shout at distracting passengers

1.  South West (14%)

2.  East Midlands (13%)

2.  West Midlands (13%)

=4.  East (11%)

=4.  North East (11%)

=4.  Yorkshire (11%)

7.  London (10%)


Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

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