Now that GPS is a common feature in cars, its time to consider updating driving tests to ensure that GPS is used safely.
GPS is a boon and a curse. It will soon be difficult to find a vehicle that is not equipped with GPS during production. Older vehicles will increasingly be equipped with GPS as an accessory. Used correctly, GPS is a great assistant and has the ability to make navigation safe and easy. However, any driver who fails to understand how to use GPS correctly can become less safe, being distracted at the most critical times and accepting GPS instructions without thinking or making sure the instructions are valid.
There is now a strong case for driving tests to include a section covering the use of GPS. There is the reasonable debate about whether this should be compulsory for all new drivers, or be an optional test in a similar manner to the Advanced Driving Test and skidpan instruction and testing. Of course that does nothing for the millions of drivers who already hold a full driving license and poses again the question of whether a driving license should be for life, or whether some requalification is necessary. These can be emotive questions, as is the matter of requiring older drivers to re-apply for a license every three years when some drivers over 100 are still driving skillfully, responsibly and safely and other drivers in their thirties suffer unreported medical conditions that should stop them driving.
Garmin, manufacturer of a comprehensive range of GPS devices and accessories have taken the trouble of producing guidance for the use of GPS for first time drivers taking the proposed new driving test being trialled across the UK. A valuable guide for these drivers, but also a very helpful guide for anyone using GPS on the road.
Garmin’s top tips for first time drivers
As Grant Ferguson celebrates being the first person in the UK to pass his driving test using a sat nav, GPS specialists Garmin has compiled a guide to help first time drivers navigate the proposed new driving test being trialled across the UK.
By Kirsty Quartley, Garmin (Personal Navigation Device) PND Product Manager:
“The proposed new driving test, which incorporates the use of a sat nav in the car, is a great way of introducing future road users to using in-car technology in a safe and responsible manner. Our advice isn’t just about helping learner drivers pass their driving test, this is advice that even the most seasoned of sat nav users should be reminding themselves about for safer and more efficient driving. Sat navs do now form a part of modern driving so it makes a lot of sense to start educating young drivers early on about how to use a sat nav properly.”
Kirsty’s top tips:
1. Remember: YOU are the driver, your sat nav is an aid
Your sat nav is there to help give you directions but remember that you are the one in control! If there are road diversions in place or if you judge that the route ahead is not appropriate, then do override the directions and continue on the safest route. It will always automatically re-adjust itself so you can still arrive safely at your destination, just via an alternative route. The sat nav is an aid, it is not absolute, so make your own judgements based on the situation ahead accordingly.
2. Hone up on your listening skills
You should keep your eyes on the road, not on the sat nav. Get into the habit of listening to the directions rather than looking at them. Make like commuters on the London Tube and try not to make eye contact – you shouldn’t need to look at your sat nav for longer than is necessary! This allows you to focus on your driving and means you’ll be more aware of potential dangers that present themselves as you make a turn or navigate a roundabout. Do switch your phone onto silent too so notification sounds don’t interfere with your concentration.
3. Double check your route before you set off
It may seem obvious but do double check that the postcode and/or address you have entered is actually your desired location – a single incorrect letter or digit could mean you end up further away from your destination than when you set off! Also, if there are certain areas or roads you wish to avoid during your journey, or if you’d like the most time- or fuel-efficient route, do enter this into your sat nav from the get-go.
4. Only handle your sat nav as a last resort
When driving, the road ahead and surroundings should have your full attention so avoid handling your sat nav as much as possible. Certain models do have voice-activated navigation so you simply need to speak your instructions and your device should respond accordingly, leaving both your hands safely on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
5. Keep your map software updated
Research by Garmin shows that almost half (40%) of sat nav owners never update their mapping software1 and this can lead to a plethora of potential problems later down the line. Roads come and go so as time goes on maps will become less accurate, meaning that you’re more likely to end up in the wrong location so try to update your mapping software at least once a year.
1. Research commissioned by Garmin on 2,000 UK people in 2014.