Motorists reveal Christmas getaway worries

David Williams, national motor journalist and road safety award-winner

Remember how – in the good old days – everyone piled into the family car at Christmas, driving hundreds of miles while happily singing carols, just to enjoy a wonderful time with their relatives on the other side of the country?

Neither do I, but it hasn’t stopped a national breakdown provider producing statistics to say we did, and that it’s all change in 2015…

Research by Green Flag shows that in 2005 over half of Brits (55 per cent) said ‘nothing’ would stop them visiting families over Christmas and they’d do ‘whatever they could’ to make sure they did.

Now, however, just 33 per cent say the same, with 67 per cent claiming that issues such as travelling long distances (24 per cent), ‘awkward and dull conversation’ with family (25 per cent), and ‘not being able to drink’ because they’re driving (18 per cent) mean they no longer bother. Can this really be true?

Ten years ago it was common to get just seven days off work over the festive period, with 32 per cent opting to spend two days with the wider family. Now it’s common to get 10 or more days off, apparently, but our time dedicated to family hasn’t increased in line with this, with 32 per cent still spending just a couple of days with relatives.

It turns out that the reasons we choose to avoid family over Christmas include transport issues such as costly travel – as well as topics of conversation. A sixth (14 per cent) of us now worry about dangerous drivers on the road – a number that has risen by 100 per cent over the past ten years, with just seven per cent fretful about this in 2005.

Other reasons include bad traffic (16 per cent) and the cost of travel (13 per cent) – with the latter rising from an average of £35.78 to £51.66 over the past 10 years.

For those stalwarts still willing to face the long drive to rellies however, the radio remains a popular choice of in-car entertainment, with 70 per cent listening in 2015 compared to 65 per cent in 2005, although our choice of music has changed dramatically.

Adele now tops the poll as the artist families are most likely to listen to when driving home over the Christmas period. A decade ago ex-Take That heartthrob Robbie Williams was top of the family road trip pops with over a quarter (28 per cent) of Brits naming him as their preferred listening choice, beating Slade (22 per cent), Oasis (21 per cent) and Band Aid (20 per cent). This year the favourites, after Adele are Taylor Swift (30 per cent), Slade (29 per cent) and Ed Sheeran (28 per cent).

There’s another big change. In 2005 just one per cent of us browsed the web on a phone or tablet, a number that has risen by 900 per cent as a sixth (14 per cent) of us now browse to keep entertained. The number of us planning to watch films on a tablet during the drive has risen from three per cent in 2005 to 25 per cent today (hopefully not including the driver).

Traditional games are still popular. In 2015 a third of us (34 per cent) play games like eye-spy, compared to a quarter (25 per cent) of us ten years ago.

Which made me think. When I set up my Nextbase dash cam, the swish new 512G dash cam, there was an option to include – or not include – sound on the recording.

I opted to blank it out (just in case I was caught singing to myself; not a pleasant sound). But now I plan to turn it on again. Just think how amusing it will be – even if nothing happens for the camera to pick up – if you save some of the soundtrack for future years, and play back footage of all those family squabbles about who sits where, how many times you stop, where you stop, what you listen to on the radio, the sing-alongs and so-on. And all that gossip about those awful rellies you’ve just left behind, hundreds of miles across the country.

Wishing you a very happy, and safe, Christmas and New Year.

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