If you have taken a long distance car journey with kids this summer, you’ll know that tears and tantrums are all part and parcel of the experience.  Or at least, that’s the conclusion most parents will have reached a long before now.

But according to one statistician at Nottingham Trent University, in-car tantrums can be not only predicted, but delayed with appropriate preventative measures.  James Hind claims to have come up with the exact formula for predicting (and ultimately preventing) backseat meltdowns, having conducted extensive interviews with 2,000 parents.

Specifically, he found that the 70-minute mark is the most likely time kids will start screaming blue murder into a journey. He subsequently came up with the following formula:

Ready for the math? Here’s the equation Hind landed on.

T = 70 + 0.5E + 15F – 10S

The T is time until tantrum, the E stands for entertainment, the F stands for food, and the S stands for siblings in the car. 

Roughly translated, he’s saying that this 70-minute tantrum threshold can be delayed (perhaps indefinitely) by keeping your kids entertained and sufficiently sustained with snacks.  However, the likelihood of a backseat tantrum increases significantly, with the addition of siblings.

Not that any of this will come as a huge surprise to most parents, who know all well how a cheeky a McDonald’s and a fully-loaded iPad can stem the tide of even the worst travel tantrums.

“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,” said Hind. 

“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.”

Equally unsurprising were the three most common causes of backseat theatrics, when taking kids out and about on long journeys. According to the parents polled, boredom (68%), length of trip (62%), and hunger (57%) were the three most common reasons for kids going nuts. 

Interestingly, the study found that the fatal words “Are we there yet” are, on average, uttered 32 minutes into a journey. At which point, the response provided by parents can have a major impact on what happens next.

Where kids know they’re still in for several hours of boredom, they’re far more likely to kick off than if they genuinely believe they’re nearly there.  Even if the truth is quite the contrary, in the case of the latter.

All lighthearted reading perhaps, but the study does nonetheless serve as a reminder of the importance of keeping kids occupied on long journeys. Just as long as hunger and boredom can be prevented, you stand a much better chance of reaching your destination with no unnecessary drama.