Sat-nav dangerous, says RAC

Confusing road signs are causing accidents, according to an RAC survey – and driver-distracting, in-car entertainment and sat-nav systems aren’t helpi

Confusing road signs are causing accidents, according to an RAC survey – and driver-distracting, in-car entertainment and sat-nav systems aren’t helping, it says.

Road-safety activists have acted swiftly following the release of the survey, suggesting that navigation devices actually add to the number of information inputs a driver has to deal with.

Not true, we say. A well-designed sat-nav system should have you so well informed about your next manoeuvre that, in the last few hundred yards before a major junction, the driver's free to observe warning signs and judge potential hazards, instead of squinting at directional signs.

Before our road safety friends come round and kneecap us, we’re not blind to the shortcomings of in-car tech. Poorly designed sat-nav and, more dangerously, unscrupulous users are dangerous. Online stores offer the best deals on mainstream consumer technology – and few markets are as competitive as sat-nav in 2006 – but the online buyer gets no advice on how best to install and set up their new device except in the bundled documentation. But we’re all too clever to need the instructions, right?

Wrong. As pretty as 3D maps are, you shouldn’t need them on all the time. Responsible sat-nav exists: CoPilot smartphone software (pictured) has a Driver Safety setting that restricts directions to spoken word and simplified junction diagrams. Garmin sat-nav allows only limited setting changes while the vehicle is in motion. Oh, and don’t stick your GPS system to the windscreen in your line of sight – that’s just common sense.  

Stuff says…

Despite the Highway Code’s best advice, we expect few drivers give their car’s lights, tyre and mechanicals a once over before every journey. Nevertheless, we implore them to take five minutes to get their in-car tech running smoothly before they set off. That’ll give everyone a fighting chance of understanding all that the highway throws at them.