Do you rely on your sat nav?

With society becoming more and more reliant on technology, GPS satellite navigation devices have become a part of every day life. You can download them on your smartphone in minutes and, theoretically, be directed to wherever you’re going via the fastest route. Sounds great, yes, but is this all too easy? Are we becoming too reliant on the sat nav to get us from A to B? Here, Izzy from PassSmart, looks at how the sat nav has become a part of our lives, and how our reliance on them could be putting us, and others, at risk.

Distracted driving

The dangers of distracted driving are all too well documented. Texting or speaking on a hand-held mobile behind the wheel are both offences which, in the UK, could land you with a £60 fine and three points on your licence.

So, what’s different about sat navs? They’re legal, yes, but they can still cause a driver to lose concentration. Whether you’re trying to type in an address whilst on the move, or looking at the screen instead of the road, there’s no doubt that – if used incorrectly – a sat nav can be distracting.

In becoming too trusting of sat navs, drivers are at risk of blindly following the directions and missing vital road signs, obstructions or changes in road layouts. Sat navs are, after all, technology, and technology can fail. At best, you’ll find yourself circling the same road, but you only have to do a quick internet search to find stories of accidents in which a sat nav has played a part.

Loss of common sense

Just a couple of weeks ago, a young driver found herself driving onto a Croydon tramline during rush hour, after following the directions of her sat nav. Although the driver escaped unhurt, the results could have been catastrophic.

We’d all like to think that this mistake wouldn’t happen to us, but how often do you trust your sat navs instructions over your own initiative? Have you ever missed a no entry or one way sign because you were simply following your sat nav?

It’s important to remember that a sat nav is just a guide. It’s not in control of the car. It can’t predict the broken down car around the corner, or the child playing at the side of the road. You, as the driver, are responsible for expecting the unexpected, regardless of what your sat nav is telling you.

‘Inattentional blindness’

A study, conducted by researchers at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, addressed the phenomenon of ‘inattentional blindness’, applying it to sat nav use.

They found that drivers who were following a sat nav could be ‘blind’ to visual information that might clutter their already focused brain. In concentrating on the information that the sat nav is feeding their brain, drivers can be ‘blind’ to what they see going on around them.

“Our research”, Professor Nillie Lavie from UCL explained, “would suggest that focusing on remembering the directions we’ve just seen on the screen means that we’re more likely to fail to observe other hazards around us on the road, for example an approaching motorbike or pedestrian on a crossing, even though we may be ‘looking’ at where we’re going.”

Sat navs are, undoubtedly, useful devices when used correctly. Remember that they are simply a guide, can provide incorrect information, and can’t predict hazards. Most importantly, trust your own initiative. You didn’t, after all, pass your driving test by letting a machine do all the hard work for you!

Have you found yourself in a tricky situation after following your sat nav’s instructions? Do you prefer to stick to reading the map and foregoing the technological approach? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

This guest post was written by Izzy Guarella on behalf of; the UK-based company who match learner drivers with driving instructors in their area.

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  1. Interesting post – I live on a small island, so I don’t use Sat Nav here at all. But when I’m in UK, I use it all the time – it’s just so convenient and greatly reduces the tension of planning a trip.

    But the downside is I travel long distances and often can’t remember how I got there!

  2. I have been caught out a few times, like following the Sat Nav into a golf driving range when I knew the junction was farther down the road. There’s also a road driving from Colchester to Chelmsford where my machine takes you off at a junction, sends you back down the direction you just came, then takes you off again, turns you round… and keeps repeating!

    My favourite, though, was driving back from a little village near here, and I didn’t really need the Sat Nav but I had it on anyway. It told me to take a different route and I thought I would try it out… the road got narrower, and narrower… more and more windy… and I was thinking, “This is a really nice little road”. It deposited me in a clearing in the middle of a forest with nowhere to go.

  3. Classic – there should be a website for stories about Sat Nav disasters!

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