Back to Blog

Drivers Risking Lives to Correct Sat-Nav Mistakes

A survey of 1,000 drivers carried out by road safety charity Brake and insurance group Direct Line has found that more than 1 in 7 drivers who use an in car satellite-navigation device admit to making illegal or dangerous manoeuvres to correct sat-nav instructions.

‘Turn around when possible’ is a familiar phrase to anyone who regularly uses a sat-nav whilst driving. The survey revealed that not only were sudden U-turns putting other road users at risk of death or serious injury, but that 1 in 14, rising to 1 in 10 for those aged 17-24, of the drivers polled have had to swerve or brake suddenly to avoid hazards because they were being distracted by their sat nav.

There is evidence that using a sat-nav can make people drive faster and be less observant. However, voice-based satellite navigation systems have clearly revolutionised the way we drive and when used responsibly are obviously intended to be safer than trying to read a paper map whilst driving.

Nowadays we have a wealth of technology available to hand that can distract us and take our eyes off the road whilst driving, whether it’s adjusting our stereo, having our mobile go off, trying to re-programme sat nav devices or simply playing with our in car ‘infotainment’ systems where drivers can access information or entertainment totally unrelated to driving, such as checking social media.

Research has shown just how difficult it is trying to multi-task behind the wheel without our driving being affected. Many drivers allow themselves to be distracted because they believe they are in control. But evidence suggests that as many as 98 per cent of us are unable to divide our attention from driving without a significant deterioration in performance.

Looking at sat nav systems while our eyes are supposed to be on the road is no different than using a paper map whilst driving. It is still dangerous. If you need to look at a sat nav do what you would do with a paper map – pull over somewhere safe before having a look. In a similar vein, if you need to change direction or turn around, do it safely and avoid taking dangerous U-turns.

It is important to remember that sat-nav exists to keep our minds focused on driving without having to worry about directions. It does not exist to make all our decisions for us. Driving is probably the most dangerous and unpredictable activity most of us do regularly, an activity in which our full attention is needed at all times and awareness of any number of factors such as speed, road signs, pedestrians and other drivers.

Through its Drive Smart campaign, Brake is calling for drivers to programme their sat navs before setting off on their journeys and not to attempt to re-programme them whilst driving. They also advise against using hands-free phones and call for tougher penalties for those caught using hand-held phones so that drivers take the law more seriously.

A study of in-car video footage estimated that 22 per cent of road traffic collisions could be caused, at least in part by driver distraction. It also revealed that drivers performing any kind of secondary task whilst driving are two to three times more likely to crash.

Using mobile phones - whether hands-free or hand-held – is believed to quadruple your chances of causing a serious crash, while using phones to text, email or browse the internet, raises the risk even higher. Despite research stating that the impact of using a phone on reaction times is on a par with drink-driving, many of us still put other people’s lives in danger for the sake of taking a call or message.

Slater and Gordon are a national law firm with 1,450 staff and offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Derby, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Merseyside, Bristol, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield, Cambridge & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire & in Hull.