Map vs Sat Nav

Posted on August 4th, 2011 by James Luckhurst

Map vs Sat NavIF YOU have ever had the pleasure of sitting down to watch Mike Leigh’s ‘Nuts in May’, supreme study in tension and discomfort, you will no doubt remember the scene where Keith admonishes Candice Marie for having the Ordnance Survey map upside down. They have just been inconvenienced by the closure of the road to East and West Lulworth via Povington Hill. ‘What does it mean, Keith?” bleats C-M. “It means we’re going to be late,” replies Keith, sternly.

We deduce from this that Candice-Marie can’t read a map. Which gives her something in common with thousands of young drivers who rely entirely on satellite navigation to get them from A to B.  A poll last month by has found that a complete reliance on devices such as the satellite navigation system is leading to poor map reading ability among a majority of Britons under the age of 25.

Of the 1,976 UK motorists aged under 25 who took part in the survey, two out of three admitted their inability to read a map – needing to depend almost completely on their sat nav while behind the wheel.

More than four out of five (83%) young motorists questioned using a satellite navigation system in their vehicle, while a map is used by only a quarter of the respondents.

So far, then, it’s map readers 1, sat nav users 0. But it doesn’t stop there, because apparently more than seven million drivers are playing a potentially deadly new craze sweeping Britain’s roads: ‘sat-nav racing’. The aim of this ‘bizarre’ game is to beat the car’s GPS navigation system by arriving at the destination faster than its estimated time of arrival.

Sat nav predictions are based on speed limits, so it stands to reason that those who do beat the clock will be either travelling above the speed limit or taking risks to weave their way through traffic.

Don ‘t get me wrong. If used correctly, GPS units are an excellent invention, helping drivers to navigate effectively and concentrate on the road far more than when using maps or printed directions. What’s more, they can reduce stress levels among drivers, which promotes a safer journey – and they have their green credentials, too. After all, it’s reckoned that drivers in Britain waste the equivalent of 267 Olympic sized swimming pools of fuel just by poor journey planning and getting lost.

Personally, I can pore over a road map for hours and hours. I love looking at them. But I also greatly value the sat nav that’s been a loyal companion on journeys for the past ten months.

You can’t reverse progress, so it would be absurd to call for all motorists across the UK to cast their TomToms aside and resort to the use of maps alone. But I for one would be in favour of a learning system requiring learner drivers to complete – say – three cross-country journeys of at least 60 miles, with access only to a map for navigation purposes. I wonder what Keith and Candice Marie might think of that.