Are we nearly there yet? Scientists crack the code to backseat breakdowns

  • UK statistician reveals scientific formula that predicts the chances of a tantrum in the backseat
  • Formula launched by LV= Britannia Rescue as families prepare to hit the road for the bank holiday getaway this weekend 
  • Entertainment and food are the key variables that prevent a tantrum, while the number of siblings in the backseat increases the chance of car chaos 
  • Over a third (36%) of parents say they find car journeys with their kids more stressful than their day job, with over half (52%) confessing to throwing parenting rules out the window and giving in to their child’s demands whilst driving
  • The average child will ask ‘Are We Nearly There Yet’ just 32 minutes into a car journey

With millions of families heading away for the Bank Holiday, LV= Britannia Rescue, one of the UK’s leading breakdown providers, has partnered with a statistician to reveal what really tips kids over the edge on a long car journey – highlighting it’s not just oil, water and tyre problems that could cause a breakdown on the UK’s motorways this weekend.

Dr James Hind from Nottingham Trent University was asked to analyse responses from 2,000 parents to create a first-of-its-kind scientific formula that predicts the estimated time a child will take to throw a wobbly during any given car journey, and helps parents avoid backseat chaos.

The survey found that on average a child will throw a tantrum just over an hour into a car journey (70 mins). Food and entertainment, such as music, tablets or books, can help parents buy themselves more time before a meltdown, but children will hit breaking point sooner with siblings in the backseat.

To find out how long they have until their child throws a backseat wobbly, parents can fill in the formula above where (T) shows time to tantrum

(E) represents how every minute a child is entertained helps prevent a tantrum while (F) shows how providing food will buy parents another 15 minutes before a tantrum occurs (with an upper limit of x2 snacks per hour). The final variable (S) is for siblings, with the more brothers and sisters in the car quickening the likelihood of an explosion by 10 minutes.

Dr Hind, who is based in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology, adds: “If you have only one child, and you can keep them entertained and occasionally bribe them with food, you could manage two hours of tantrum-free driving. Unfortunately, two children with no entertainment and no snacks can brew up a tantrum in just 40 minutes! Snacks are important but there is a limit to how much they can help, so keep them to two an hour max. Entertainment is key but even that fails with really long journey times. Taking breaks to 'reset the clock' is important for preventing tantrums, as well as making sure you are not tired while driving.”

The formula is based on research from LV= Britannia Rescue that reveals three in four (71%) parents feel anxious or stressed about long car journeys with children. Over a third (36%) find them more stressful than their day job, while over half (52%) confess to throwing their parenting rules out the window when it comes to their child’s backseat tantrums.

The research reveals that boredom (68%), long journeys (62%), and hunger (57%) are the key factors that lead to a backseat breakdown, with parents citing complaining (44%), fighting with siblings (36%) and constantly asking questions (31%) as their children’s most annoying backseat habits. On average, a child will ask ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’ 32 minutes into any given car journey.

Food (61%), car games (51%), and distractions (48%) are the most common tactics used by parents to distract from the boredom of a motorway traffic jam. One in five parents admit to using bribing techniques, while nearly one in four parents admit lying to their child by saying they are closer to the destination than they are to prevent the dreaded ‘Are We Nearly There Yet’ question.

The research also shines a light on how travel chaos at airports this summer has resulted in more families hitting the road by car than ever before. One in three parents will be driving rather than flying to their holiday destination this year, whilst half of those surveyed (50%) admit they are worried about the increased travel time and busy roads as a result.

LV= Britannia Rescue has launched a guide to help parents keep their children entertained in the backseat.

Henry Topham, Managing Director of LV= Britannia Rescue, commented: “Whilst the Bank Holiday weekend is the perfect opportunity for a final bit of family time before the kids go back to school, it doesn’t always come without long car journeys and traffic jams, which can lead to backseat breakdowns. Travelling with young kids in the back seat is never easy, and the research and formula highlights the challenges parents will no doubt experience all over the UK this weekend. So, as well as making sure your tyres are pumped and your oil and water levels are topped up, make sure your passenger levels are regularly replenished, with snacks, pit stops, and entertainment.”

LV= Britannia Rescue has over 4,000 breakdown professionals and an average response time of just 57 minutes*. For more information visit


Top 10 Causes for A Tantrum:

Boredom (68%)

Length of the journey (62%)

Hunger (57%)

Needing to go to the toilet (36%)

Not having enough entertainment in the car (35%)

Entertainment not working (34%)

Temperature in the car (27%)

Annoying siblings (26%)

Feeling sick (26%)

Battling for attention (24%)


For further information:

Natasha King
Senior Press Officer, General Insurance
07443 237651


Survey of 2,000 adults conducted by Censuswide July 2022

Relationships between the number of snacks, presence of siblings, access to entertainment and incidence of tantrums were estimated using a regression approach based on survey data.

*Average response time of 56.89 mins. 93% of 97,520 customers were able to complete their journey. From Agent Performance Report Sept ‘21- Feb ’22.