Quarter of domestic bust-ups happen in the car

Quarter of domestic bust-ups happen in the car
Quarter of domestic bust-ups happen in the car

The car has been revealed as the UK’s number one hotspot for domestic arguments, with one in four bust-ups taking place while on the road.

The humble automobile beat the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom to come out as the most common location for couples to argue, with the fall-out lasting anything from a few hours to entire days.

Experts and drivers have suggested that the confinement, lack of control and stress of dealing with traffic could be partly to blame for the high incidence of “carguments”.

A losing argument

The most common cause of arguments was, predictably, falling out over directions, with it blamed for a full third of disagreements. Just behind that came clashes over a partner’s driving ability (32 per cent), over driving too fast (17) and what was on the stereo (eight per cent).

Arguments aren’t just confined to car-related matters, though, with couples venting on other domestic flashpoints while trapped in the confines of a car. Classic topics include finances (17 per cent), family (16 per cent), children (14 per cent), and chores (11 per cent).

Research conducted by independent car buying site carwow revealed that the fall out from an in-car bust-up can last longer than you might expect, with one in eight of those surveyed admitting they can go anything from three hours to more than a day before speaking to their partner again.

Getting directions wrong – or refusing to ask for any – is the number one cause of in-car arguments


Dr Sandi Mann, from the University of Central Lancashire believes that the simple act of getting in a car with a partner is enough to heighten the chance of an argument.

She said: “The act of driving brings stress of its own and a driver can already be stressed and frustrated by so many triggers on the road such as traffic, inconsiderate driving, roadworks etc. So throw another person into the mix and it’s always going to have the potential to be explosive.

“The triggers for an argument are far more prevalent in driving situations, too – your partner’s individual habits come to the fore; perhaps in their lack of willingness to ask for directions, their tendency to drive too fast, or aggression towards other drivers. All of these things can wind another person up.

“And once an argument starts, neither of you can go anywhere until the journey is over, so it’s only going to go one of two ways – a dramatic silence or, far more likely, a spin-off into other topics where one or both of you are harbouring a grudge.”

Walk away

Women admit to starting more in-car arguments than men (45 per cent vs 42 per cent), with those aged under 24 most likely to lose their temper.

One in 20 of those surveyed even say they have stormed out of the car following an argument and walked the rest of the way, rather than stay in the vehicle with their partner.

Mat Watson, resident motoring expert at carwow, added: “Drivers face so many distractions on the road today – but our research shows that distractions can be just as dangerous inside the car as outside.

“Passengers should try to put themselves in the driving gloves of the person behind the wheel before kicking off an argument. It’s hard enough to drive on our roads in 2018 without added stress.”

Keep calm and carry on

To help defuse “carguments”, Dr Mann has come up with a series of tips:

  1. Be aware that car journeys are a trigger for arguments – being forewarned is being forearmed.
  2. Identify your own triggers. For example, if directions get you in a fluster or concerns over speed are a regular catalyst, you might be able to navigate an argument more easily. If it’s triggers outside the car, such as money then avoid discussion while on the road. Once these are identified, it’s easier to try to avoid them until you get out of the car.
  3. The car is a confined space, so avoid piling additional stress on to a journey. Keep stress levels as low as possible by making sure you have plenty of time, are not in a rush and trying to avoid the busiest times on the road.
  4. If an argument is brewing, keep your cool by practicing vagal breathing; breathe in slowly through the nose, hold the breath for a few seconds then breathe out slowly through the mouth.
  5. Put on a relaxing piece of music if things get heated – it really can make a difference.
  6. Make sure the car is cool and comfortable and you’re not cramped in (if you’re arguing about the temperature of the car then this might not be possible!).
  7. Stop for a breather at a roadside café or service station – this will diffuse the situation and switch your attention to other things (as well as getting you out of the close confines of the car and into a more public space).
  8. This is perhaps the hardest one for some, but reduce anger by apologising – even if you are in the right.
  9. Use equivocal language as it is softer – ‘it may be’, or ‘in my opinion’ rather than ‘it is’.
  10. Find common ground, especially in terms of finding something that unites you; for example, join forces to moan about another driver, find a car you both like on the road or admire a house that you are passing that you know appeals to both of you.

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