Oh dear! Sat-navs can significantly impede motorists' performance behind the wheel, according to new research
Oh dear! Sat-navs can significantly impede motorists' performance behind the wheel, according to new research. Academics at Lancaster University, and the Royal Holloway University of London, performed a series of experiments whereby volunteers were set computerised tasks which mimicked the instructions of a sat-nav. The results suggest that when motorists follow complicated instructions they tend to drive faster with more steering variations - as well as being less likely to notice pedestrians moving into the vehicle's path.Dr Pragya Agarwal, from Lancaster University, revealed: “The results from our research have implications for the way these systems can be designed to be more effective and user-friendly in the future. Our research shows how people’s behaviour while driving is influenced by the use of these navigational systems, which are becoming increasingly ubiquitous.” Dr Polly Dalton from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, added: “What is interesting is that people were able to follow one simple instruction without any significant impact on their driving but as soon as they had to remember a compound instruction, consisting of two sequential directions, we began to notice a difference in their driving ability. A lot of effort has gone into designing visually friendly sat-nav devices but our research highlights the importance of the way in which the auditory instructions are given.” Interestingly, 75% of the test subjects said they only use a sat-nav's visual display for “clarification, elaboration, or reminders of the auditory instructions”. This, researchers say, confirms the importance of the auditory instructions to the majority of users. Sat-nav manufacturers should clearly take this into account. But, the final responsibility for safety stops with motorists. It is their task to concentrate and not be distracted by the sat-nav, radio, or kids. Furthermore, in my experience, sat-navs can help people drive safely as their instructions enable motorists to focus on the road rather than struggling to read the directional signs that are frequently hidden by plants. At worst, sat-nav is a mixed blessing.