Sat nav is driving away basic navigation skills

We all have our pet hates, things that make us as hot under the collar as a Jeremy Corbyn disciple watching BBC Question Time.

By Blaise Tapp
Monday, 18th February 2019, 6:48 am
Updated Monday, 18th February 2019, 10:51 am
Blaise is following the call of his sat nav
Blaise is following the call of his sat nav

I have a long list of them which, among others, includes Audi drivers - especially the ones who leave a couple inches of stopping distance when they tailgate their poor unfortunate prey; teenagers or anybody that doesn’t remember Top of the Pops, who use the phrase ‘back in the day’ and people I don’t know who address me as ‘mate’ - Sir will do.

But right at the very top of my own Room 101 wishlist comes the dreaded sat nav, a device that has reduced the car driving population to a mere shadow of its former self. For many years I refused to get one, regarding it as an assault on my masculinity. Like all issues of any significance in our house, I was eventually overruled and we became the not-so-proud owners of what has to be the smuggest sounding piece of equipment ever invented. At least the irritating Alexa, the smart speakers found in nearly every middle class home, will simulate the sound of flatulence but the joyless screens on dashboards everywhere suck the life out of any car journey.

If your childhood was anything like mine then it would’ve been punctuated by endless squabbles between parents about why they didn’t take the A419 rather than the obscure B road. But we always got to our destination, we didn’t drive off a cliff and, as a result, dads (and mums) of thirty years ago seemed to be much more at home behind the wheel than we are today.

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Call it looking at life through rose-tinted specs but before sat navs became as ubiquitous as dental braces at an Ed Sheeran concert, most drivers felt in control because at least one person in the car knew how to read maps but this is a skill which has, pretty much, been rendered redundant by the advances of technology.

Don’t take my word for it, ask Bradford Parkinson, the leading engineer who headed the team that pioneered GPS technology for military purposes some 40 years ago, who now decries society’s inability to map read.

To point the finger of blame at the man who invented the satellite technology that led to sat navs is rather like pinning the current obesity crisis on Mr Kipling but he is right, as being able to follow basic directions means that motorists are not slaves to a device, which can easily lead to them becoming distracted. There have long been concerns that drivers are too busy looking at their intended direction of travel, rather than paying attention to potential hazards on the road.

Besides, getting lost is never really the end of the world and, if you are anything like me, you will never get lost again while going to that particular destination. It is called learning.

There was a time that if you had gone out of your way, you would simply scour the streets, looking for somebody sensible to ask for directions. The sat nav has also put paid to that, which is a shame as nobody really talks to strangers anymore as we are all to busy looking at Twitter or laughing at singing cats on YouTube.

We might not get lost any more but do we really know where we are going?