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Who’s the Best Driver? Mum or Dad? A Family Driving Experiment

Who is the best driver? Mum or Dad? Shell Driving Experiment
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Who’s the Best Driver? Mum or Dad? A Driving Experiment

Who creates the best road trip experience in your family? Mum or Dad? In a bid to find out, we took a trip to Scotland. While Stuart and I shared the driving, the kids shared their views about what it’s really like when each parent takes the wheel to make a very revealing video, published below. Our mission was part of an international driving experiment by Shell. In this post, an advertising collaboration with Shell, we highlight what the initiative is all about and reveal who our kids crowned King or Queen of the road…

We've driven in exciting places but is it the driver or the place which creates the best road trip experience?

We’ve driven in exciting places but is it the driver or the place which creates the best road trip experience?

I thought I was Queen of the Road

I thought I’d got away with it. I thought if I made a habit of driving for at least an hour before stopping at a service station, no one would notice my addiction to coffee and my lack of stamina behind the wheel. So that’s what I did. For seventeen years. One hour’s driving, one hour’s coffee stop.

Turns out it was clocked every time. My kids miss nothing.

Driving at Ferrari World Yas Island Abu Dhabi

The kids miss nothing…but just wait till they are behind the wheel

Who’s the King or Queen of the road? Best ask the kids

Who is better behind the wheel in your house? Actually I will rephrase that. Who creates the better driving experience? Because the two things are not the same. You can be driving instructor standard at getting around a corner or reversing into a tiny space yet drive everyone mad getting to that villa you impulsively booked without checking where it was. You can be Lewis Hamilton in your head, yet let yourself down by a lack of imagination when it comes to fun games, navigation skills and a refusal to let anyone have a loo break until you’ve crossed a border.

Yes fun games. You didn’t realise that was your responsibility? Really?

Trophies reflected in trophies in the Hall of Fame at Ferrari Museum Maranello

You can be worthy of a racing trophy in your head but do your kids think you deserve a prize?

Or maybe don’t ask the kids…

Admittedly ‘fun’ is subjective depending on where you are sitting in the car.  While some might love continual Eddie Stobart games and eighteen rounds of ‘ten green bottles,’ others may prefer to play a game of pass the headphones or sleeping lions. Music is a similarly tricky issue; not all Spotify tracks are equally pre-loved, and the fact you once met the backing singer of your favourite song will not impress them in the back.

Creating a great driving experience is a minefield, and you need to know it has nothing to do with your car. You can buy the most luxurious car ever to have come off the factory floor, with leather seats, cruise control, surround sound and personal seat heaters. You can fill it with the highest quality petrol, clean it once a week and pump the tyres  before every substantial journey. None of this will matter a jot when the toddler is sick all over the seat because you bribed her with Fruitella to do that extra mile.

Ferrari World Yas Island Abu Dhabi

The most luxury car from the factory floor is not enough to create a great driving experience on its own

It’s all about your driving personality

So what to do? Well for a start it’s good to be aware of what kind of driving experience you create, what your personality is behind the wheel, and what different factors affect your personal journeys. We weren’t all born inherently suited to road trips or we’d all be living on route 66 with Lightning McQueen. It is a learned skill, and changes all the time, depending on factors like mood, the weather and how many e-numbers people have smuggled into the back. And if you won’t play car bingo when the going gets boring, how can you expect anyone to be your cheerleader when you almost go the wrong way down the M6 because you had one Red Bull too many at Charnock Richard? Of course the terrain is also a factor; while I am fabulous at driving to my local takeaway, driving to Kjolur in the highlands of the interior of Iceland presented somewhat different challenges.

Road Trip Iceland 4WD on way to Kerlingarfjoll

Road Trip Iceland 4WD on way to Kerlingarfjoll – a bit different from nipping out to get a Chinese

Introducing the Shell UK Driving Experiment

Shell believes a successful road trip is fuelled as much by the people involved as it is the car and what goes into the tank. The company has carried out a driving experiment in 12 different countries examining how our emotions affect our driving. The UK study is being done in partnership with Goldsmiths University and uses emotion tracking technology to monitor how driver moods and other factors impact how we perform on the road. Over 400 drivers in the UK were observed for two weeks using wearable technology, chat-bots and mobile apps. The aim was to uncover factors that impact driving performance and questions were asked about personality, mood, time schedule, weather, diet, passengers and entertainment.

Shell’s thinking is that if it can understand what affects drivers behind the wheel, it can start to try and help improve their journeys in a more targeted way, developing and designing products, services, and initiatives that respond to customers’ needs and make life’s journeys better.

Using the Shell App as part of the Shell driving experiment

Using the Shell App as part of the Shell driving experiment

Creating a personalised driving picture

I was one of the drivers taking part in the experiment. In the two week period of monitoring I undertook two UK road trips and I will be bringing you my detailed personalised picture of how marvelously or terribly I coped in a few weeks time when it drops into my in-box. With the help of Goldsmiths researchers, the personality profiler and screener, survey results will be laid over the data gathered from the road trips. But I don’t need the results to know which parent the kids favour. Because when I asked, they happily told me. All the way to the Scottish Cairngorms.

Skiing in the Cairngorms of Scotland

It’s hard to ski  in the Cairngorms when your driving has been analysed for four hours…

Are we there yet?

According to the kids I cannot get beyond the drive before I need a coffee, relentlessly listen to chat shows and chat too much myself, shamelessly bribe children into silence if they so much as open their mouths, get lost at every junction and panic at the first sign of a hailstone. Meanwhile Stuart inflicts hourly torture with his Dad music and Spanish tunes, is tied by an umbilical cord to Googlemaps, leads everyone astray on Dadventures and has a mind-numbingly boring range of word games to torture people with.

And then they really got started on our quirks and habits. Check this video for the lowdown, and cruelly, their makeshift voting system. Who armed the ones in the back with pads and pens?

And the winner is…

Who won? I think I did. Stuart thinks he did. Just wait till that research is published…

Road Trip USA in the mountains

Everyone who is being critical of my driving can walk instead!

Disclosure Note: This post is a paid collaboration with Shell. All bad dad music, pit stops and endless games of’ ‘D is for driving’ were all our own, as is the opinion, video and photography.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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