Road Trip Meltdown: Why Family Car Trips Go Bad

Boredom and bother lead to meltdowns on family road trips and lasting repercussions, according to's survey.

Road Trip Meltdown: Why Family Car Trips Go Bad Photo (cc) by Mackinac Design

This post comes from Michelle Megna at partner site

If you see a family sitting in their car on the side of the road this summer, chances are it’s because of a breakdown, but not of the mechanical sort. Seventy-one percent of drivers say they’ve pulled their car over during a family road trip because of someone having a meltdown, according to’s new survey. asked 1,561 drivers who said their families have experienced road trip meltdowns to name the main causes, who is the first to experience an emotional eruption in the car and when, and what happens as a result.

Drivers who say a meltdown has led to other problems point to these repercussions:

  • A near-miss — 21 percent.
  • Long-term family argument — 19 percent.
  • Turning around to go home — 19 percent.
  • Traffic ticket — 14 percent.
  • Accident — 8 percent.

While your premiums are likely to go up if you do happen to be ticketed or have an accident, you should check with your insurer to see what car insurance discounts you qualify for to help mitigate any potential rate increases.

Boredom, bothering and boiling points

Despite the potential consequences of family road trip mishaps, 86 percent of drivers say they look forward to the seasonal ritual of packing up the car, piling in the family and hitting the road.

Most drivers realize a happy car trip with the kids relies heavily on keeping them entertained, and the survey findings underscore this basic parenting principle. Children younger than 13 are most likely to lose their composure first (53 percent), followed by teens (23 percent), wives (13 percent) and husbands (11 percent).

Drivers who have experienced a passenger meltdown flag these as the main causes:

  • Boredom — 32 percent.
  • Someone pestering someone else — 19 percent.
  • Someone won’t stop talking — 7 percent.
  • Someone touches someone else — 6 percent.
  • Disagreement over radio stations — 5 percent.
  • Hunger — 4 percent.
  • Disagreement over stops — 4 percent.
  • Disagreement over where to eat — 4 percent.
  • Someone is looking at someone else — 4 percent.
  • Conflicting directions — 4 percent.
  • Disagreement over a car game — 3 percent.
  • Other — 3 percent.
  • Disagreement over what to watch — 2 percent.
  • Car sickness — 2 percent.
  • Something lost in car — 1 percent.

While many families (45 percent) enjoy a peaceful journey for two or more hours before someone melts down, 7 percent experience a meltdown before leaving the neighborhood, and 15 percent within an hour of being on the road.

Others put the brakes on the idea altogether – 31 percent have decided not to go on a family road trip because of past passenger meltdowns.

Nearly half of drivers (48 percent) say the longest road trip they would go on would last multiple days, and a quarter (25 percent) say a full day is the limit. Nineteen percent will venture out for no more than a half day, and some drivers set the maximum road trip time at a few hours (7 percent).

Thirty-seven percent of drivers report they take more than one car when they embark on a family vacation on the road. Others prefer not to take their own cars at all – 13 percent always drive rentals, and 45 percent rent sometimes.

Family road trip melt downs

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