Are Sat Navs More Distracting Than A Map?

Tuesday, 18. January 2011

Hi, Graham Hill here, thank you so much for visiting my blog, I hope you learn a lot and as a result end up driving a great car. In order to do so you can get all the information you need by buying my book, An Insider Guide To Car Finance or use me to finance your next car. Happy driving.

In 2008 there were 14 million sat navs in use in the UK, by now it is assumed that over half of all cars on the UK roads (30 million) now has a driver with a sat nav. According to psychologist Dr Victoria Bourne, writing in Fleet News, research shows that up to 78% of accidents are caused by distractions. The question is – are sat navs more distracting than a mobile phone? A secondary question is – are sat navs less distracting than a paper map? The reason why the safety experts and police are so paranoid about mobile phones is that when you use a mobile phone you are splitting your attention between two distinct tasks, talking and driving, both of which require your total attention. However, it has been a long held view that related tasks are far less distracting, so using a sat nav that assists your driving is less likely to be as great a distraction as using a mobile phone, which has been shown to decrease driving skills. However, according to Dr Bourne there is now evidence that shows that sat navs are far less safe than was originally thought. Obviously there are cases where drivers, taking instructions from sat navs, have ended up on railway lines, just about to drive off a cliff and on roads that are too narrow for a car. The question is, if the driver was paying attention how could this have happened? Latest research is now showing that in fact you are more likely to be distracted by a related task, such as reading a map, than an irrelevant task such as using a mobile phone. So whilst sat nav use, whilst driving, has been ignored in the past are we likely to see new legislation to stop or control the use? However, the alternative would be to revert to old style paper maps. According to Dr Bourne one study found that drivers using a sat nav arrived at their destination quicker and took a shorter route. However, sat nav drivers drove faster and more aggressively around corners so whilst sat navs increased efficiency they also increased risks. On balance it would seem that sat navs are more advantageous than not so how can they be made safer? Research is being carried out into head up displays as opposed to head down. So far simulator tests have shown that drivers using head up react faster to emergency situations and maintain more consistent driving speeds. Other areas of investigation involve the instructions. At the moment they are distance related but researchers are looking into the possibility of reverting to landmarks e.g. ‘turn right after the pedestrian crossing’ or ‘turn left immediately after the Shell filling station on your left.’ Another alternative is to train drivers into using different driving skills that makes them drive with more caution once they understand the risks with a view to introducing the use of modern technology into the driving test. Any views on this please let me know? By Graham Hill

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