Driving us around the bend: The UK’s most hated motoring habits

Queue jumping? Tailgating? Middle-lane hogging? Which bad driving habits do Brits find the most irritating? We asked the nation what drives them mad on our roads.

Updated 5 April 2023   | 4 min read

With more than 40 million licensed vehicles in the UK and car traffic on the increase, driving faux pas and frustrations are inevitable.[1] From littering out of the car window to not using indicators correctly, there are many faults to be found with other drivers. But what is the worst driving habit?

To find out, we asked the nation how other motorists drive them around the bend.[2] Here are the most common responses, along with some rather niche and comical grievances.

The most hated driving habit

According to our survey, Brits think the biggest motoring indiscretion is driving while using a mobile phone. Mobile phone use is hated by a massive 64% of drivers, and for good reason. Motorists that use a mobile phone are four times more likely to crash, and reaction times are three times slower if you text while driving.[3]

Picking up your phone for any reason while on the road has been illegal since 25 March 2022. Until this point, loopholes were enabling dangerous drivers to play games or take photos, thus escaping conviction. Restrictions have now tightened and it is illegal to touch your phone at all.

Ryan Fulthorpe, Go.Compare’s car insurance expert, says: “If you’re caught using your phone behind the wheel, you can expect to receive six penalty points and a £200 fixed penalty notice. But that’s not all. It could have an exponential impact on your car insurance premiums, so don’t be tempted to check your phone when driving, even for a moment. It’s simply not worth it.”

The top 10 most hated motoring habits

Bad driving habit Percentage of drivers who hate it
Driving while using a mobile phone 64
Tailgating 61
Not using indicators correctly 59
Littering out of the window 57
Leaving lights on full beam 56
Drivers cutting you up 53
Drivers pulling out at the last minute 51
Not pulling over for emergency services 42
Speeding 41
Obstructing traffic while stopping to chat 41

Mobile phone use is closely followed by tailgating, which exasperates 61% of drivers, as well as not using indicators correctly, which irritates 59% of drivers. Litterbugs are also some of the most hated motorists, as rubbish being thrown out of car windows annoys 57% of drivers.[2]

For 56% of motorists, one particularly frustrating driving habit is leaving headlights on full beam when other vehicles are approaching. Being cut up by another car bothers 53% of motorists, and drivers who pull out at the last minute before proceeding to drive very slowly wind up approximately half (51%) of Brits.

Meanwhile, 42% of drivers have pointed out their irritation with vehicles that don’t pull over for emergency services. The Highway Code states that motorists should look and listen for vehicles with flashing lights, then take appropriate action to let them pass safely while complying with traffic signs and not endangering themselves, other road users or pedestrians.

Further bad habits that just made it into the top 10 are speeding and obstructing traffic to chat with friends out the window, both of which irk 41% of drivers.

Other ways we’re driven around the bend

Along with the bad habits listed in our top 10, other annoying driving activities include undertaking (perturbing 33% of motorists), middle-lane hogging (39%) and impatient drivers who love to beep their horn (40%).

More than a third (36%) of the nation’s road users don’t like it when drivers forget to give a courtesy wave, while slow drivers are annoying to 30% of those surveyed. Even hearing someone else’s excessively loud music irritates 18% of drivers.

In terms of road conditions, potholes and poorly maintained road surfaces are incredibly bothersome to motorists. Roadworks, and specifically traffic management and cones when no roadworks are currently being carried out, are also very frustrating.

Aggressive drivers are particularly irritating for many, as are boy racers and cocky drivers, especially those who drive with an “elbow out the window”.

Unsurprisingly, cyclists were highlighted several times throughout our survey. Habits like cycling three abreast, ignoring traffic lights, and not using cycle lanes are especially infuriating to many motorists. HGVs are also a bugbear when they block lanes or pull out to overtake with insufficient speed.

Parking is another inflammatory topic. Drivers vented their frustrations at inconsiderate parking, including parking too close to junctions, ignoring double yellow lines, obstructing pavements and blocking driveways.

Who’s the most irritated? And who’s the most irritating?

Our data shows that male drivers are generally more irritated by bad driving than females. More men find all of the top 10 habits annoying than women, except for speeding. Driving too fast frustrates 43% of women, compared to just 38% of men.

It seems that everyone is equally perturbed by motorists who don’t pull over for emergency services (43% of men and around 42% of women) while littering and obstructing traffic for a chat are considerably more annoying to men.

In terms of who is the most irritating group, mums “on the school run” were a demographic highlighted by one survey respondent. However, husbands that fiddle with the radio didn’t go unnoticed either. Other aggravating groups include children and dogs that are loose in cars.

Meanwhile, it comes as no surprise that backseat drivers drive many of us around the bend, including parents who complain from the passenger seat. One driver surveyed thinks his wife is especially annoying, but has specified “that’s not just when driving.”

How annoying is your driving?

It’s time to own up to your bad habits and find out if you’re a dreadful driver or a model motorist. Simply tick which driving faux pas you’ve committed in the past, and you’ll receive a score out of 100.

Simply tick the habits that you have done to get your 'bad driver score'. Each score is out of 100 annoying points

Share the quiz with your friends to find out who’s the most annoying driver

“Fortunately, even the most annoying drivers should be able to find affordable and suitable car insurance,” says Ryan Fulthorpe. “But it’s important to understand the distinction between mild irritations and seriously dangerous driving. Forgetting to say thank you or queue jumping is frustrating for others, of course, but habits like tailgating and middle-lane hogging are considered careless driving and could land you with a fine and points on your license.

“Every time you get behind the wheel, make sure you’re driving with a sensible head. Give yourself plenty of time, be respectful to others, and always obey the Highway Code. Even when you’re a passenger, you need to be mindful. Backseat drivers can be extremely distracting to motorists, which puts themselves and other road users at risk.”

About the data

[1] The number of vehicles on UK roads at the end of September 2022 was taken from the DVLA vehicle licensing statistics. According to the Department for Transport’s Provisional road traffic estimates report, car traffic increased by 13.5% to 239.8 billion vehicle miles in the year ending September 2022 compared to the year ending September 2021.

[2] To collect the majority of data used in this report, we surveyed 2,000 UK residents via YouGov. The survey was run on 21 October 2022 and all responses were randomly selected. All statistics featured on this page are sourced via this survey unless otherwise stated.

[3] Driving and mobile phone statistics were sourced according to research conducted in the government’s THINK! Road safety campaigns.

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