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by Karl Peskett

It seems obvious – or at least it should seem obvious. When using your satellite navigation, keep your mind switched firmly to the “on” position. However a recent survey by UK website motoring.co.uk shows that people are taking what the SatNav voice is telling them as gospel.

According to the research, 20 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men have “blindly followed a satnav into the middle of a field, and Network Rail has experienced damage to railway bridges and level crossing collisions as a result of drivers’ failure to use their initiative.”

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) in the UK, was prompted to speak up about the survey, adding that incidents involving trucks would be much more serious if road trains were allowed to be introduced to English roads.

Peter Rodger, IAM Chief Examiner, said: “Satnavs can be a real aid to road safety, providing the driver already has an idea of the route. Your satnav aids your own navigational abilities. It should not replace them. Have a map as a fall back and remember satnavs are no more infallible than the person who uses them, so do have some idea of your route before you set out.”

“Drivers using satnavs for the first time should be prepared to familiarise themselves with it before setting off on a journey.” Mr Rodger added.

Recommendations from the IAM include the following:

  • Always programme your satnav before you set off, not while you are driving.
  • Use the audible instruction to guide you and only use the screen for a quick glance as a confirmation.
  • Certain routes may be closed for whatever reason, and sometimes the data on the satnav itself is old – with a map you can find routes around problems more easily. Pull over and look at your map at the first safe opportunity if you get confused.
  • Drivers should also think about the position of the unit – the satnav unit shouldn’t obstruct your vision or be put where an airbag could be deployed.
  • Weight and height restrictions apply to some routes which is worth bearing in mind if you are driving a hired vehicle that is larger than one you are used to.
  • Remove the unit before leaving the vehicle and make sure that all visible satnav mounting marks are removed from the windscreen before you leave the car – they encourage thieves. Also don’t programme in your ‘home’ details – thieves have been known to use these to commit further offences after stealing the satnav unit.
  • Although there is currently no legislation for the correct use of satellite navigation equipment, the police have a number of offences they can apply if they believe the driver to have been ‘driving without due care’ or ‘failing to have proper control’.

Most modern satnavs also include a recalculate function, so you can drive around road works and take detours.

But do you think we are more reliant on this technology that we should be?

Do you keep a road map in your car when you’ve got a satnav installed?

What sticky situations have you found yourself in while following a satnav’s instructions?

CarAdvice would love to hear your experiences.