February 21, 2018

Don’t blame me, blame the Sat Nav –

We have all been there – desperately looking for signs, arguing with our spouse, asking for directions from people who don’t know North from South.

That was back when people didn’t have electronic wizardry to assist them through every turn. Now of course we have come to take for granted the synthesised commanding tones from little black boxes affixed to windscreens.

Popularity in sat navs has steadily increased over recent years, despite also gaining a bad press with various stories of these electronic auto arbiters directing their drivers into all manner of scrapes and tight spots. Each escapade seems to outdo the last in incredulity.

We have recently had the tale of Necdet Bakimci, the driver of a lorry transporting luxury cars through europe, who ran into trouble when he mistakenly followed sat nav directions to Gibraltar Point, Lincolshire,  rather than his intended destination of Gibralter, Spain. His miscalculation was only finally realised when he grounded his lorry on a humpback bridge in a remote lincholshire village.

Another story that made the headlines was the 20 year old woman who was lucky to escape with her life when her sat nav directed her onto a railway line with near devasting results.

Paula Ceely, 20, of Redditch, Worcester, followed her sat nav’s instructions to go over a level crossing. When she got out to close the gate she heard the sound of a train’s horn and noticed she was standing on tracks. She just had time to get out of the way as the train slammed into her car and carried on down the tracks. “I’ll never use a sat nav again”, she said.

As well as these headline attention grabbing strories, there are also the dozen upon dozen of examples of drivers taking ridiculously obscure routes to destinations and residents becoming aggrevated by lorries and vans getting stuck up narrow lanes.

Psychology professor Cary Cooper, of Lancaster University, said: “When you see pictures of a lorry being lifted out of ditch with a crane, it’s difficult to understand why drivers follow a satnav even when it’s clearly wrong.

“But some people are easily persuadable and will follow instructions, whether it is their wife or a computer telling them where to go.

“Some people like to hand over control and don’t want responsibility, even for something as simple as directions.”

Perhaps these examples highlight the popularity and hidden benefits of satnavs. As hard as it is to believe how the Hungarian lorry driver could make such a rudimentary error of judgement as to not realise he was in the wrong country, by following a sat nav, can you imagine how ridicious he would have looked if he hadn’t been following the guidance of one of these devices, but instead was navigating himself? – he would probably be residing in some sort of mental reabilition instituion by now, his driving livelihood long gone. As for the 20 year old student – had it not been for her scapegoat satnav – she could of quite conceivable have faced a charge of driving without due care and attention.

Their continuing popularity – with over 14 million drivers now relying on them, in spite of their apparent problems, goes to prove how bad most of us are at map reading.

Sat Navs are often been criticised for being dangerous, but how safe is trying to glance at a map every five seconds, along a dark country road? Or how appealing is it trying to solo navigate in a busy unfamiliar city, with nothing more than an A-Z atlas?

It has almost become an accepted pastime to berate your sat navs directions. The times I have heard people say “Sorry for being late, I would have been here sooner had it not been for my sat nav, it took me on a really daft route”.

 This leads me to praise one of sat navs most useful by-products – absolving responsibility and blame from the driver and passenger, to an inanimate little object that can’t argue back. You can shout and scream as much as you like – your electronic travelling companion won’t be offended.


Let us just think for a moment – all the embarrassment at being late for an appointment and in-car domestics that have been spared by Tom Toms, Garmins and Traffic Masters. If the worst comes to the worst and despite your best efforts you still can’t find your destination – all you have got to do is blame your satnav!

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