Sat Nav – A help or hindrance for professional drivers?

Posted by AndrewT on 7th Jun 2012

New research from Lancaster University and Royal Holloway, University of London, reveal using satellite navigation systems can reduce drivers’ performance. A series of experiments were conducted where volunteers were set tasks by a computer mimicking instructions given by a sat nav. You may not be surprised to learn that the results showed that when people were following complicated instructions they tended to drive faster, with more steering variations, and were less likely to notice pedestrians who may step into the road.

Much effort goes into the way these devices work to ensure they are user friendly and any instructions are given in a way that does not influence driver behaviour. The research showed that people were able to follow one simple instruction without any significant impact on their driving. However, when they had to remember instructions with two sequential directions their driving was affected. This shows that auditorily-presented information can interfere with the task of driving and studies on mobile phone usage have delivered similar results.

However, this all needs to be balanced against the impact on your driving when you don’t know where you are going or the dangerous alternatives (e.g. map reading and driving). If the research helps to improve the way sat navs work it can only be a good thing.

The research, funded by Nesta and the ESRC, is published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.