Scottish Department of Transport (DfT) officials are investigating in-car satellite navigation systems as a potential driving peril. The so-called satnav devices are suspected of distracting drivers and causing accidents. Researchers at a British university believe they may have an answer.
According to The Scotsman newspaper, the navigation systems, which use satellite signals to plot the driver’s position on an electronic map display, are already used by millions of motorists. Earlier in 2006 the newspaper reported that Swedish road safety experts had discovered satnav was as potentially distracting as using a cell phone while driving.
Several issues of The Ergonomics
Report™, a publication for professionals in ergonomics-related disciplines, have looked into the cell phone and driving question. An article on July 19 reported on a recent study that compared driving while using a cell phone to drunk driving.
Wrong directions from the satnav units account for some of the distractions. In the newspaper article one driver complained that his satnav device has led him almost anywhere but where he wants to go since he bought it in 2005. He said it orders him to go the wrong way in one-way streets or turn into roads where he can’t turn. Describing the device as hopeless, he said sometimes you just try and see where it will lead you for a laugh.
The Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute at Britain’s Loughborough University has tackled the satnav distraction issue. Researchers at the institute recently found that drivers are less likely to make mistakes at the wheel if their in-car navigation systems use landmarks to direct them to their destinations. The findings show that drivers make more errors when they are following satnav directions that use distance information, such as “turn right in 50 metres.”
Researcher Andrew May said that the results show that, for both older and younger drivers, the use of landmarks