Sat-navs could affect driving ability, say researchers

Sat-nav inside a car Motorists started to swerve, speed up or fail to notice pedestrians

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Sat-nav systems can not only sometimes send motorists the wrong way but also impair driving, a study suggests.

Researchers at University of London and Lancaster University tested drivers in a car simulator.

The study suggested motorists did not drive as safely when they were trying to concentrate on the directions given.

While they could cope with simple instructions, they started to swerve, speed up or fail to notice pedestrians if they had too much information.

Volunteers were set tasks by a computer which imitated the instructions given by a vehicle's satellite navigation system.

User-friendly design

Lead researcher Polly Dalton, from the department of psychology at University of London's Royal Holloway college, told the BBC that the gadgets needed to be kept simple.

She said: "People are capable of following spoken instructions in a car and it's actually a really good way of presenting information to them.

Dr Pragya Agarwal: Sat-navs can have "a significant impact on people's performance"

"It's important not to make those directions too complicated because that runs the risk of asking them to keep too much information in mind when they are also trying to concentrate on the driving task."

But she added that listening to instructions was still safer than looking at a map.

Lancaster University's Dr Pragya Agarwal said the research could help sat-nav design to be more effective and user-friendly in the future.

The Department for Transport acknowledged that sat-navs were very useful for motorists but warned drivers to use them responsibly and keep their eyes on the road.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Look. If it is illegal to use mobile phones whilst driving, the same should apply to satnavs. Yet again another useless invention designed for those among us who have no idea how to organise their lives. I have little regard for lateness due to a users reliance on such technology that goes wrong. Not only that but they'll ring you on their mobile to tell me that they are late. Rude if you ask me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    All my cars have built in Satnav, not some extra that has to be stuck to the windscreen. They cannot be programmed whilst on the move as a safety precaution so have to be programmed before you start off. I don't find them at all distracting and if you don't want to follow their direction then don't, you have a choice, they will re-route you. Thats one of the advantages of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    I have a sat nav given to me by my daughter when she upgraded. It sits under the seat and is now never plugged in. I find that when using it I invariably end up in the wrong lane at roundabouts where "take the seond exit" could mean turn left, right or go straight on depending on the amount of exits on that roundabout.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Not sure what this proves.Using written instructions or a map is at least as difficult,if not more so when hazards like bus lanes and one way streets are involved.Relying on satnav often means getting lost in rural areas where I live and if not properly set driving along roads even locals tend to avoid.A combination of prior map study and use of online views makes getting around easier than ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Remembering driving directions in new places for many is hard (e.g London). Because you cannot read a map or hand written instructions while driving you have to pull up. The amount of times I have got frustrated going somewhere new when I have missed a turning etc. does not help driving. Generally more relaxed using sat nav and therefore more attention to road and driving.


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