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Are SatNavs distracting drivers?


Article by: Darren Griffin
Date: 1 Jul 2010

pocketgpsworld.comYesterday we spent a day at a "Green Company Car Event" taking place at the Millbrook Proving Ground near Bedford.

Aside from the opportunity to test drive a wide range of vehicles on the superb test track facility we did some valuable networking and discussed the industry view on driver safety.

A few major companies have chosen to ban the use of mobile phones in car and some have gone so far as to request vehicle manufactuers remove Bluetooth options from their fleet specifications.

A number of investigations have revealed how distracting a telephone call can be even if the phone is in a hands-free car kita nd there can be few occasions where a call is so important that it cannot be made/taken when stopped.

But how do we feel about sat-nav? It's another device that can be distracting, should manufacturers lock out the menus and options once the vehicle is moving and is there anything else they can do to improve safety and reduce distractions?

Comments
Posted by Guivre46 on Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:28 am Reply with quote

Well I know from following drivers who are unfamiliar with their route how unpredictable their driving can be. I know my own driving behaviour before I had a satnav caused difficulty for others as I looked for road names, signs, landmarks, places to turn round etc. With a satnav I can approach an unfamiliar junction in the right lane and be confident of my route. I try not to look at the screen too much and have as many aural warnings as necessary to assist me.

In all my time I have only once tried to reset a destination on the move, I've never done it again - too frightening....


Mike R [aka Wyvern46]
Go 530T - unsupported
Go550 Live [not renewed]
Kia In-dash Tomtom

 
Posted by Border_Collie on Thu Jul 01, 2010 11:09 am Reply with quote

iGO has a Safety mode setting which disables screen taps on the move. I'm sure TT5 had it too.

Glancing at the sat nav screen is no different to checking the speedo.

To compare, for safety reasons, which is best... Trying to read a paper map on the move or listening to instructions on sat nav and only occasionally glancing at the screen e.g. approaching a multi junction roundabout to check the layout. Try setting a few routes across
N51.5667167 E0.5421195 to see how your sat nav copes. Check it on Google Earth first then again in Google Maps. Safer with verbal insructions, human or sat nav, or pot luck?

I've found sat nav a great help, especially as my wife now enjoys the view instead of head stuck in map and I find it more relaxing driving in unfamiliar areas and no longer have to worry about the 'local', who knows the roads, being held up by me. I can make progress until voice instruction pops up and then take necessary action according to road conditions.


Formerly known as Lost_Property
And NO that's NOT me in the Avatar.

 
Posted by PaulB2005 on Thu Jul 01, 2010 11:35 am Reply with quote

I think as long as you use it for guidance and don't attempt to fiddle with the sat nav on the move there's no issue. Sat Nav is usually a one way communication from the unit to the driver. Similar to someone reading out directions and much preferable to a paper map.

[Silly rant removed - PaulB2005]

The same argument was made of radios and CDs players years ago but they haven't been banned.

Personally i suspect most of these requirements to remove BT from cars is a cost cutting exercise. How a company is going to police it's employees on the UK roads i don't know...


 
Posted by NickG on Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:01 pm Reply with quote

Lost_Property Wrote:
Glancing at the sat nav screen is no different to checking the speedo.


Well, I'm not sure that's entirely true Smile I think people tend to look at their sat nav screen for much longer (several seconds) than they'd look at their speedo for. There's *far* more information and detail on it than a needle and it takes much longer to take it in. Drivers will also look at it at a worse time - eg when approaching a complex road junction, roundabout or motorway exit, where you'd never normally check your speedo at any of these times as it would be regarded as a low priority.

Unfortunately it turns out voice directions aren't really good enough on their own as the low quality data in most devices like TomToms means it's often ambiguous or wrong. TomToms are notorious for saying "turn left" when the road simply bends left. If there really is a place where you can turn left, you'll have taken the wrong route so the screen needs to be checked. My TomTom also seems to say "take the third exit" on the roundabout when the screen clearly shows the forth exit. It seems tiny undriveable service roads and 'phantom' exits which aren't there affect the voice instructions. My local roundabout has a gated road which leads to a brick wall, and TomTom counts this as an exit despite the fact that there's a 6 inch curb to drive up if you wanted to attempt to drive it.

TomTom/TeleAtlas do not seem to correct mistakes on maps either; Not that I've seen anyway but I know others have seen things fixed. All of my reported problems I've reported though their MapInsight system from up to 4 years ago still haven't been fixed in the latest maps and this makes things worse. If the map data was better, the voice directions would be correspondingly better and you wouldn't need to check the screen so often.


Twitter: @nickg_uk

 
Posted by Horatio on Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:34 pm Reply with quote

PaulB2005 Wrote:
Mobile phones are a 2 way communication, and so, do distract the driver. Some will argue "ah, but that's like having a conversation with a passenger" but this is an incorrect argument. When i talk to a passenger i don't have a distorted view out of the windscreen with my head tilted to one side and clamped to my shoulder, nor does talking to a passenger stop me from being able to change gear and indicate because one of hands is clamped to my head.

But isn't it hands-free phones that they're condemning? They'd ban them tomorrow but for the fact that it would just remove the incentive for people to buy handsfree kits, and so many would revert to holding the phone while driving.

For my sins, I've been distracted both by hands-free mobile calls and by talking to someone in the passenger seat. Not the sort of distracted where I'm not watching and reacting to what's going on on the road, but the sort of distracted where my driving is more like autopilot and I might miss a turning or perhaps pick up a bit more speed than intended. It's not the medium of communication that matters, but the nature of the conversation. If you're having to concentrate on your responses (e.g. being expected to solve a problem or trying to juggle your diary in your head) then you can't have your full concentration on the road.

As I see it, there is no alternative to having a mobile phone in the car (preferably hands-free.) If I'm on an urgent call-out, I'm not going to pull over at every motorway junction each time the phone rings. Some calls might be very important, and a whole load more of them won't be, but I need to speak to the person in the first place before I can figure out which kind of call it is.

As for sat-nav, I'd argue that a pre-programmed one with voice instructions is less distracting than trying to look out for direction signs and street names. The real danger with sat-nav is people mucking about programming the things when they're supposed to be driving. And let's be honest, we probably all do it from time to time.


TomTom GO700
Renault Carminat TomTom
TrafficMaster YQ2 (now forcibly retired, and sadly missed.)

 
Posted by PaulB2005 on Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:42 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
But isn't it hands-free phones that they're condemning?


Quite right.... Embarassed What an idiot.... *

In my defence i was driving to work whilst typing this on my iPhone and my secretary kept ringing on the Blackberry, nearly causing me to spill my Latte on my bacon butty. However i think the final straw was the idiot cyclist who caused me to swerve into a bus full of Nuns....

* Truth is i had a rant built up inside me after i was nearly hit by an idiot on his phone this morning and it came pouring out.....


 
Posted by NickG on Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:42 pm Reply with quote

PaulB2005 Wrote:
Personally i suspect most of these requirements to remove BT from cars is a cost cutting exercise.


Well some companies have a "don't die on our account" policy and don't want their employees to answer calls from the company (or anybody else) while their driving. I think this is sensible - no civilian needs to be on the phone while they're actually driving. You couldn't do it if you wanted to 10 years ago, and therefore you don't *need* to do it now. It's been proven to be more distracting than drink driving by some countries (although results vary).

Is it just me or have the laws introduced to ban the use of hand-held phones have no effect at all? I still see it almost daily. Mind you I see people speeding daily too and that's also illegal...


Twitter: @nickg_uk

 
Posted by Border_Collie on Thu Jul 01, 2010 4:38 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
Drivers will also look at it at a worse time - eg when approaching a complex road junction, roundabout or motorway exit, where you'd never normally check your speedo at any of these times as it would be regarded as a low priority.

Maybe there's an age difference but I was taught, many years ago, to always glance at speedo when slowing for the examples you've mentioned. Mind you, back then it was drum brakes and cross-ply tyres, one mistake and 'crash, bang, boom'. Was also taught to change down to third (out of four) when approaching not only the above but crossroads, pedestrian crossings, schools etc and be prepared to stop. To this day I use the gears to slow down/adjust speed.

Sat Navs with their routing and wrong/ambigous instructions leave a lot to be desired but still, in my opinion, safer than reading from a pre-written list of roads or a map.

Mobile phones? I have one but always have it switched off in the car. It's there only to call the breakdown service if necessary.


Formerly known as Lost_Property
And NO that's NOT me in the Avatar.

 
Posted by Horatio on Thu Jul 01, 2010 9:22 pm Reply with quote

NickG Wrote:
PaulB2005 Wrote:
Personally i suspect most of these requirements to remove BT from cars is a cost cutting exercise.

no civilian needs to be on the phone while they're actually driving. You couldn't do it if you wanted to 10 years ago, and therefore you don't *need* to do it now.

Why just go back 10 years? Why not go back 100, and then none of us need cars? Laughing

Like cars, whether we've needed mobile phones in the past or not, the fact is that people now rely on them.


TomTom GO700
Renault Carminat TomTom
TrafficMaster YQ2 (now forcibly retired, and sadly missed.)

 
Posted by NickG on Thu Jul 01, 2010 9:29 pm Reply with quote

Horatio Wrote:
Like cars, whether we've needed mobile phones in the past or not, the fact is that people now rely on them.


No, many people don't make calls from their car and they go though life just fine. There's no alternative to a car - but you can easily wait 20 minutes to make your call when you've arrived or simply stop in a car park for a few minutes if it's that urgent.


Twitter: @nickg_uk

 
Posted by The Rudd on Fri Jul 02, 2010 5:44 am Reply with quote

Lost_Property Wrote:
iGO has a Safety mode setting which disables screen taps on the move. I'm sure TT5 had it too.

Glancing at the sat nav screen is no different to checking the speedo.

To compare, for safety reasons, which is best... Trying to read a paper map on the move or listening to instructions on sat nav and only occasionally glancing at the screen e.g. approaching a multi junction roundabout to check the layout. Try setting a few routes across
N51.5667167 E0.5421195 to see how your sat nav copes. Check it on Google Earth first then again in Google Maps. Safer with verbal insructions, human or sat nav, or pot luck?

I've found sat nav a great help, especially as my wife now enjoys the view instead of head stuck in map and I find it more relaxing driving in unfamiliar areas and no longer have to worry about the 'local', who knows the roads, being held up by me. I can make progress until voice instruction pops up and then take necessary action according to road conditions.


I agree with lost_property, having a sat nav makes it much easier that you can rely on the voice instructions (when I am with my mother on long distance journeys) she still likes to read the map but if she goes to sleep then "Daniel is in charge", it makes life a more relaxing journey and stress free.


 
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