Driving Safely with Sat Navs

Satellite navigation has changed the way we drive, and mostly for the better, but sat navs do come with a word of warning. On the upside: you’re much less likely to get lost on a backroad or stuck in a traffic jam. On the downside: they can be a dangerous distraction, and when things go wrong; they can go spectacularly wrong.

Britain has been branded a nation of ‘sat nav junkies’ and it’s estimated that we use sat navs or smartphones for nearly 80% of all car journeys. However, a recent report by a leading price comparison website has shone a light on the dark side of sat navs and our growing dependence on driving tech.

The report revealed that one in five motorists admitted to driving dangerously due to dubious directions, with u-turns being the most common culprit. A similar number of drivers said they had been given incorrect information about the local speed limit. Worse still over 60% confessed they don’t keep their software up-to-date meaning they won’t be aware of changes to the road layout or speed limit.

The road safety charity BRAKE goes one step further and suggests that driver distraction caused by sat navs could put your life at risk. In a sizable survey they found that one in fourteen drivers had narrowly avoided a collision (either swerving or braking suddenly) because their eyes were on the sat nav and not on the road.

Relying on technology, rather than road signs, might be dangerous and it could also be making us ‘dumber’. According to research carried out by University College London depending on sat navs rather than using our own spatial awareness might be bad for our cognitive health.

Nevertheless, sat navs are here to stay and from December they will be included in the driving test. Anyone taking their test will be expected to drive independently for 20 minutes using a sat nav or road signs depending on the instructor’s decision. The RAC foundation has welcomed the changes as a ‘more realistic assessment’ of modern driving.

Next time you use your sat nav remember the following five points:

  • It is illegal to touch or preprogramme your sat nav while driving.
  • Make sure that your sat nav isn’t obstructing your vision or you’ll be breaking the Highway Code.
  • You are in charge of your vehicle and if something goes wrong; you can’t blame it on your sat nav.
  • Don’t be a slave to your sat nav and if you suspect that it’s playing-up; go with your gut.
  • Sat navs make tempting targets for thieves; so keep them out of sight when not in use.

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