Satellite navigation – more harm than good?

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Satellite navigation – more harm than good?

6th January 2011

As illustrated in an incident reported this week in which an articulated lorry became stuck in narrow roads, satellite navigation systems can often be more of a hindrance than a help to the nation's drivers.

The lorry in question got stuck twice in one day trying to negotiate rural roads around a Snowdonia village after following directions from an on-board satellite navigation device struggling to find a suitable route between Bangor and Aberystwyth.

Joanna Bailey, a partner with Fentons Solicitors LLP and spokesperson for road safety charity Brake, said: "Sales of satellite navigation devices are growing all the time but research has shown that if used incorrectly, in-car navigation equipment can be just as distracting as trying to read a map at the steering wheel whilst driving."

In a recent survey by a motoring insurance company, research revealed that over one in ten drivers had used their satellite navigation device controls whilst driving instead of programming their route before commencing their journeys.

Nearly one in eight of these drivers admitted to not spending any time planning routes they were unfamiliar with before setting off, instead relying entirely on their navigation devices en route to get them to their destinations.

Furthermore, over half of those polled acknowledged that if they adjusted their devices whilst driving, their eyes were taken off the road for up to ten seconds. In ten seconds, a car travelling at 60mph can easily cover 250 metres, the equivalent distance of over two football pitches.

"The fact that drivers in the UK are compromising their safety and endangering the lives of pedestrians and other road users by adjusting navigation equipment whilst essentially travelling blind at 60mph, is truly horrifying, "said Joanna.

As the articulated lorry driver demonstrated this week, satellite navigation systems are renowned for causing problems in previously quiet and rural areas. Their tendency to select the shortest possible routes from A to B without differentiating between classified and unclassified roads can inevitably lead to traffic such as heavy goods vehicles being directed down routes that are totally unsuitable.

"Drivers should spend a few minutes prior to their journeys planning unfamiliar routes on a map or online route finder," said Joanna. "Alternately, the safest option would be for motorists to allow their passengers to navigate for them."

The issue of satellite navigation systems misdirecting drivers is a serious problem that affects both motorists and residents. Motorists sent the wrong way down one-way streets and single carriageways, taking them onto muddy and sometimes flooded tracks and on some occasions, into lakes and farmyards, can leave long-suffering residents understandably furious.

"Drivers should be very wary of blindly following instructions from their satellite navigation devices," said Joanna. "If you are told to 'turn left' it is vital to first ensure that it is safe to do so and that nobody for instance is crossing the road at that moment. Satellite navigation systems also frequently have pre-programmed routings that are incorrect, for example sending drivers along a 'road' that is actually a dead end lane only used by pedestrians with no adequate turning space."

In 2006, residents of a Yorkshire village named 'Crackpot' demanded their hitherto tranquil location be removed from satellite navigation database systems after villagers became fed up with rescuing terrified sales reps left trapped in their vehicles after being directed to the edge of a 100ft precipice.
"Irrespective of whether your in-car navigation system gets you lost or not, drivers must realise that by looking at a screen or fiddling with the controls of their devices whilst driving, they are putting themselves and others at considerable risk," said Joanna.

It is obviously better to take a wrong turning than to kill a pedestrian because you were looking at a virtual map rather than the road," added Joanna. "Your concentration should only ever be focused on the road or your mirrors. The only time your eyes should look inside your vehicle is if you need to glance at a safety-critical control such as your speedometer. If you find your eyes wandering to your satellite navigation equipment and you can't stop this from happening, simply get it disconnected."

How can Fentons help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to road traffic accidents. If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Read more at: BBC