Backseat Driver: Are These the Most Annoying Things Passengers Do in Your Car?

From slamming doors to commentating on how you’re driving – it can sometimes feel like car passengers are there just to grind your gears. And that got us thinking: what are the most annoying things that many of our fellow travellers are guilty of out on the road?

To find out, we launched a survey quizzing British drivers on their passenger pet peeves, as well as the rules that they (try to) enforce when they’re behind the wheel. This led to some pretty conclusive evidence that passengers do, indeed, really grate on some motorists – with a few standout grievances that are sure to leave even the most level-headed drivers seeing red.

So, what gets your goat in the driving seat? Explore the full results of our car passenger etiquette survey below.

Top 10 Most Common Car Passenger Rules

Granted, some motorists may be more chill about their cars than others, but every driver has their own rules that passengers should abide by. So, what sort of do’s and don’ts do most British motorists expect from their passengers?

It’s no surprise that the top three most common car passenger rules came out where they did. Littering and smoking are absolute no-nos as far as most drivers are concerned, while passengers not wearing seatbelts could easily land motorists in hot water with the law.

Elsewhere, it came as no surprise to see “no feet on the dashboard” high up the passenger rule rankings, while the appearance of “no backseat driving” was also expected – because everyone knows there’s nothing more irritating than someone commentating on your driving.

Top 10 Least Common Car Passenger Rules

The top ten most common car passenger rules were pretty conservative and justifiable. But are there any occasions when motorists take it too far and let the power of the driver’s seat go to their heads?

Here are some of the more extreme driver-enforced rules that passengers are forced to live by…

While 99.3% of drivers are happy to carry talkative passengers from A to B, we do feel bad for the other 0.7% that are asked to keep schtum. It’s also sad to see that nearly 5% of drivers aren’t happy with passengers singing in the car – after all, a little singsong is the ideal way to pass the time in a traffic jam.

Some of the other rules on our shortlist were a little more understandable, particularly “no eating” (assuming that the potential mess is the reason for this). “No rummaging” is also relatable and ties in with “not being distracting”, which 45% of drivers named as a rule they expect their passengers to abide by.

Top 10 Most Annoying Things Passengers Do

Judging by the rules that drivers commonly enforce, we can hazard a guess at the most annoying things passengers get up to in transit. But for the sake of clarity and catharsis, we’ve included a complete list below – how many are your regular passengers guilty of?

Smoking, littering and backseat driving – no surprises at the top of our list of most-annoying passenger traits. “Being sick” did seem a little harsh but, ultimately, fair enough, while “giving the wrong directions” had us nodding along (because let’s face it, it is very annoying).

When asked what passengers have done in their car at least once, our respondents laid it all bare. Well over 50% said they’ve been a victim of backseat driving, while others claimed they’ve had passengers slamming their doors, littering and changing the music without asking (a huge no-no for many).

Most Annoying Passengers: Ranked

From kids to coworkers or even your dear old granny – passengers of every stripe are capable of causing a nuisance out on the road. But who’s the definitive source of irritation, most likely to get the blood boiling than anyone else?

A third of drivers admitted that their partners are the most annoying car passengers, but perhaps that’s because they’re who we travel with most often. Unsurprisingly, kids came a solid second place, probably due to the fact that they’re most likely to flout passenger rules.

In third place came parents, and that’s understandable since they seem incapable of holding their tongues and not commenting on how you’re driving. And then, rather unusually, around 7% of people said they were their own most annoying passenger – perhaps because of road rage or other weird driving habits.

Drivers vs Annoying Passengers: Who’s in Charge?


Something sure to stir the pot and set tension simmering is when passengers tow the line and forget who’s in charge of the car. Indeed, motorists’ views on issues like navigation and who controls the music are clear: the driver’s say is final.

Over 80% of drivers say prefer to be in charge of directions when behind the wheel, rather than giving the responsibility to passengers. It’s a similar story for choosing the music too, with around 78% of drivers wanting to choose the music.

Drivers vs Annoying Passengers: Stress & Road Rage

One of the most worrying findings of our passenger etiquette survey is the fact that 45% of drivers feel more stressed while carrying passengers. Indeed, almost half said that they have argued with passengers while driving, with over 10% saying that they’re more likely to feel road rage with others in the car.

Drivers vs Annoying Passengers: The Final Straw

Some drivers certainly aren’t afraid to say it how it is when it comes to annoying passengers. Indeed, around 15% of respondents said they’ve actually refused to travel with some people because they find them too annoying, while over 10% have made someone get out and walk due to their poor passenger behaviour – yikes!

However, we’re not surprised – as around 7% of respondents have actually gotten into an accident due to a distracting passenger.

Put Up with Poor Passengers? Print Our Golden Rules Poster

If you often find yourself sharing a car with unruly passengers, you need our Passenger Golden Rules Poster. Inspired by the results of our etiquette survey, this covers the ten commandments that all car passengers should live by – from no littering and no smoking to not being a dreaded backseat driver.

Available to download, print and share for free, our definitive passenger etiquette guide could drastically improve those daily journeys for all involved – reducing road rage, arguments and petty power struggles out on the road. Get your Golden Rules Poster here.

The Most Annoying Things Passengers Can Do According to Each UK Region

We’re not sure if British motorists are an uptight bunch or if their passengers really are as bad as our survey suggests. Either way, how do views on car passenger etiquette change across the UK? And are any regions more chill than others?

Take a look at our regional comparison map below to find out what winds drivers up where you live.

Here are some of the most interesting findings we noted in the regional results of our passenger etiquette survey:

  • “Backseat driving” proved the second-most annoying passenger trait in most UK regions.
  • Interestingly, Wales was the place where people feel most stressed by driving with passengers, with over 50% admitting they find it stressful. This was also the region with the highest rate of passenger-related road rage (27%).
  • Over 40% of drivers in the South East find their partners the most annoying passengers to travel with, the highest figure of all UK regions in the UK.
  • Meanwhile, a third of drivers in the east of England consider their kids to be the most annoying passengers to have in their cars.
  • It seems we Brits like to go solo at the wheel, with the vast majority of motorists from all UK regions preferring to drive alone.

So there you have it: an in-depth look at passenger etiquette and all the things that we find most annoying about driving with other people. At Prestone, we can’t take away the pain of travelling with passengers, but we can offer the peace of mind of motoring fluids that excel in all extremes. To learn more, visit the Prestone homepage.