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Are we there yet? Maths expert creates formula to predict backseat tantrums

The ‘exact formula’ for predicting when a child will throw a tantrum in the backseat during a long car journey has been calculated by a statistician.



August 21, 2022
By Claudia Rowan
21 August 2022

A statistician has calculated the “exact formula” for predicting the chances – and timing – of children throwing a tantrum in the backseat of a car during a long journey.

According to Dr James Hind, from Nottingham Trent University, T = 70 + 0.5E + 15F – 10S is the code parents can use to crack the probability of their offspring’s backseat breakdowns.

Dr Hind’s research, which was developed alongside LV= Britannia Rescue and based on responses from 2000 parents, found that the time (T) the average child will typically take to throw a tantrum during a long car journey is 70 minutes.

Having two siblings travel together can bring on tantrums quicker, Dr suggests
Having two siblings travel together can bring on tantrums quicker, Dr Hind suggests (Alamy/PA)

The chances of a tantrum are reduced by every minute a child is entertained (E), while food (F) will allow parents to delay the tantrum by 15 minutes – but having siblings (S) in the car was found to increase the chances of backseat breakdowns by 10 minutes.

The research found the average child will ask “are we nearly there yet?” 32 minutes into a car journey, and four times during the road trip.

The survey found boredom is the primary cause of backseat tantrums – cited by 68 per cent of parents – followed by the journey being too long (62 per cent) and the kids being hungry (57 per cent).

Dr Hind, who is based in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology, said: “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.”

Henry Topham, managing director of LV= Britannia Rescue, added: “Travelling with young kids in the back seat is never easy, and the research and formula highlights the considerations parents will no doubt experience when travelling.

“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.”

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