Dangers of programming satnavs

Around 450,000 drivers in Australia are using satnavs in their vehicles to find their way around. Others use GPS apps on their phones to find maps or to get directions. But not everyone knows the rules for using satnavs while driving – and just how dangerous their use can be.

A UK study by IAM RoadSmart and Auto Express found, compared to all possible distractions in the car, programming a satnav is the worst. The drivers who entered a postcode in a satnav while driving tended to slow right down and one even missed a stop line. The second worst was text messaging. The least distracting activity is talking naturally to someone sitting in the vehicle, rather than talking on your phone.

Rules about satnavs

Unfortunately, the Australian rules for using satnavs are not always clear. Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) says:

  • Learner and provisional drivers (P1 and P2) can’t use mobiles at all in their vehicles, not even for finding maps or directions
  • Other drivers can enter text into a GPS or phone, but only when parked out of the line of traffic.

Satnavs do carry warning screens about not entering details while on the move. However, drivers intent on finding their way to a party or an interview may not pay attention – and increase their chances of a crash.

Part of UK driving test

In the UK from early December 2017, learners must be able to follow directions from a satnav as part of their driving test. Drivers who passed their tests years ago may find it strange that using a satnav has become so important.

Some commentators are concerned that vehicles stacked with technologies may cause motorists to become too lazy and over-dependent on gadgets like satnavs. For example, a driver in a semi-automated vehicle may be slow to take back control in an emergency. There is still a long way to go before safety or privacy laws can keep up with driving tech.

Program first

Learners in Australia will probably have to use satnavs in driving tests one day. Until then, be sure to program your satnav before you set out.

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