What We Hate

How other peoples' driving irritates

Britons enjoy driving – that was clear from the latest round of results from the 18,500 strong AA Populus panel, the UK's largest dedicated motoring panel. The study showed that 82% of members still enjoy driving.

Driving hates

a frustrated/angry driver But there is a downside to enjoying driving – and we all have our driving hates.

Far and away top of this table is the behaviour of other drivers – with 35 per cent of the sample quoting this, while another 30 per cent opt for the levels of traffic.

The two are almost certainly closely linked, in a 'chicken and egg' relationship. It's easy to claim that we behave worse in heavy traffic, when delays become inevitable and when journey times become totally unpredictable.

But it's also possible to claim that many of the most selfish driving habits also contribute to making congestion as heavy as it is.

The good old days?

Generally though, most drivers who can remember claim that behaviour was at its best back in the 1960s, when of course traffic levels were much, much lower.

What's certain is that however 'nice' the roads were then they were not as safe to travel on – with 7985 deaths being recorded in 1967 (the worst figure for a peacetime year) against 2946 in 2007.

Having established that bad behaviour was the main bane of the British driver, we looked at which behaviours caused the problems.

Specific irritations

The most irritating driving behaviour was close following, the choice of 30 per cent of drivers, and this was closely followed (!) by drivers using a mobile phone, chosen by 26 per cent.

The only other behaviour that was well and truly loathed was the middle lane hog, on 20 per cent.

Way behind were driving slowly (6%), while 'swooping' – the act of swinging across lanes late to leave the motorway scored 5%. Speeding and littering were the other main problems mentioned.

Lessons from history

Bad behaviour is a problem today, as it may always have been. Why else would Pope Boniface VIII have directed pilgrims travelling to Rome in 1300 to pass sword arm to sword arm (to keep left in other words)?

And why would the offence of Wanton and Furious Driving be in the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act – 35 years before the first car reached Britain?

And of course there's the famous 1817 passage where Lord Byron boxes the ears of someone who was 'impudent to his horse'.

Bad road behaviour clearly isn't a new or recent phenomenon.

AA Public Affairs


1 September 2008