GPS Driving British Motorists to Distraction

A new survey suggests satellite navigation systems encourage dangerous driving. They're being blamed for many accidents and near-misses in Britain

Many drivers can't imagine life without their trusty sat-nav—but the motorist's best friend is being blamed for causing hundreds of thousands of accidents and near-misses.

The gadget has also caused motorists to infringe the Highway Code, get lost and be late for appointments, according to a survey of more than 2,000 motorists for insurance company Direct Line.

A worrying two per cent—or more than 290,000 drivers across the UK—said GPS has caused them to be involved in an accident or near-miss. But the survey also suggests sat-nav devices distract and confuse millions of drivers, and encourage a variety of dangerous driving behaviours.

Worrying effects on drivers include almost a fifth (19 per cent) of sat-nav users who said it caused them to dawdle or hesitate on a busy road; 18 per cent who said it reduced their awareness of what was going on around them; 11 per cent who said it made them lose concentration while driving; and 10 per cent who said it caused them to make a dangerous, late or illegal turn.

More than a third (36 per cent) of sat-nav users also said GPS has caused them to be uncertain or confused; and almost a third (26 per cent) said the tech tried to make them go through a no-entry sign or somewhere vehicles are prohibited.

According to Direct Line there are 14.83 million sat-nav users in the UK and 33.7 million motorists, so the survey suggests a whopping 5.3 million sat-nav users (i.e. 36 per cent) have become confused by using GPS to navigate while driving.

Yet various companies are developing high tech in-car systems to embed far more driver-assistance technology into vehicles, with plans to wirelessly connect cars to the internet and each other in future, bringing far greater scope for driver distractions.

A substantial chunk of survey respondents also found sat-nav failed to do what it is supposed to: more than a fifth (21 per cent) said the gadget has taken them to completely the wrong place. And seven per cent said it has caused them to be late because of an unrealistically short journey time.

Maggie Game, head of motor insurance for Direct Line, said drivers should seek to reduce the number of in-car distractions and should try out different sat-nav models before they buy to evaluate their ease of use.

She added in a statement: "Motorists need to realise that while sat-navs are a helpful navigation tool, drivers should not follow their instructions to the detriment of road safety. If a sat-nav system gives you an instruction which is likely to endanger other road users, you should ignore it.

"Sat-navs are designed to make driving easier and safer. However, they will only do this if you take the time to learn how to properly use a sat-nav system and understand the benefits of the technology."

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.