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Are sat navs better than maps for finding your way

For many people, ‘sat navs’ – the common abbreviation for a satellite navigation system – is a miraculous piece of technology they simply couldn’t live without. Speaking clear instructions as you drive, showing directions on how to get anywhere you want to go; a sat nav appears to be the perfect in-car assistant, but is it really all it is cracked up to be? Or should we take heed from the sorry stories of sat nav disasters that regularly crop up on the news?

Sat nav disasters – are they for real?

There’s no denying how useful sat navs can generally be, but when they do go wrong, they can go spectacularly wrong. Take for example the lorry wedged on Bruton High Street as it tried, unsuccessfully, to squeeze past an historic, 300 year old building (blamed the sat nav!). Then there’s the poor Carmarthen Crematorium, which is plagued by constant arrivals of HGVs, despite the fact that the factory they are looking for moved many years ago (blame the sat nav!). One village in Kent has had so many problems with sat navs leading drivers that it has had to erect road signs advising drivers to ignore the advice of their system.

Of course, many sat nav disasters owe more to the foolishness of their users, than to problems with the sat navs themselves. For example, the European lorry driver who ended up at Gibraltar Point in Skegness, rather than Gibraltar, or the woman who drove her £50,000 Mercedes into what was obviously a deep river; simply because her sat nav described it as a ford. Other drivers have also driven into a river because they thought it looked like a road on their display – fortunately, no-one seems to have drowned as a result.

Would we be better with maps?

Of course, we could avoid many of these problems by reverting back to maps. It’s hard to confuse Skegness with an island off the coast of Spain when you can see the bigger picture for yourself.

However, maps can be out of date before you even buy them, and cannot be updated like sat navs. You may have to pay a fee, but you can plug your sat nav into your computer and get monthly updates if you want to.

What’s more, maps will not talk you through your route either like sat navs, so you will have to stop and check more often, and remember where and when to turn off. On the plus side, maps do allow you to exercise common sense in your choice of route, identifying narrow villages or dangerous cliff top roads that a sat nav might send you down without thinking.

Navigating safely

Whether you choose a sat nav or traditional road maps, the most important thing to remember is not to get distracted by them. So check your route before you leave, get a good idea of where you are going and use a sat nav as a guide for navigating in busy towns and cities. And always pull over to double check if you are unsure rather than trust solely on your sat nav.

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