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Sat navs have caused a crash for almost a quarter of Britons

Nearly one in four drivers blame an accident on their sat nav; 83% of drivers stated a sat nav sent them in the wrong direction.

Driving habits have changed a lot in 2020, as lockdown was put in place, roads became quieter and now lots of motorists are still working from home or rarely going on the roads. New research has found that 60% of drivers are concerned they’ve forgotten simple journeys to get them from A to B.

As the summer holidays are upon us and UK roads are busy again due to staycations in high demand, this research has revealed how little Brits know about UK roads, further highlighting the trust motorists put in their sat navs when driving.

The research by touring caravan and motorhome insurance specialists, Caravan Guard, revealed 83% of drivers admitted their sat nav had taken them in the wrong direction. With many drivers using sat navs for holidays and long journeys, 14% of drivers confessed to using them to get to work and the same percentage even using one when driving to the local shops.

Taking guidance from a sat nav has left many drivers confused when driving on new roads and in city centres after 33% stated that these were the hardest instructions to follow.

Almost a quarter of drivers blamed their sat nav for an accident, and almost a fifth confessed they are left hesitant whilst being directed by their technological navigator.

With crashes becoming more common due to lack of road awareness, the DVSA announced new changes to driving tests from 2017, meaning four out of five learners now need to follow instructions from a sat nav for 20 minutes of the test, checking they can still drive competently whilst following its instructions.

Biggest distractions
One of the biggest distractions is the driver’s view being obscured. An example of this is placing a sat nav in a location that is too prominent on the windscreen.

Data revealed 25% of drivers place their sat nav on the windscreen, in a phone holder or dashboard. Many drivers are unaware that simply placing it too far up their windscreen, where it could block their view of the road, could find them being fined up to £200 and potentially six penalty points on their licence.

The Highway Code states: “Windscreens and windows must be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision.” Experts recommend positioning a sat nav in the bottom right-hand corner of the windscreen, where a driver’s vision is not obscured.

Worryingly, one in 30 drivers said that they placed their sat nav in their lap whilst they drove, so they would have to look down for guidance. 12% also admitted that they place their sat nav in a cup holder or on the passenger seat, meaning there attention will often be away from the road. Placing your phone in this position, could see motorists charged for driving without due care and attention, which carries a penalty of either a disqualification, or between three and nine points. Drivers can also be faced with a fine up to £5,000 depending on the nature of the incident.

Are we there yet?
Caravan Guard’s campaign also revealed motorists lack geographical knowledge if left without a map and directions. When asked to mark 16 cities on a map of the UK, 18% placed more than half the cities in the wrong position:

  • One in 10 of people mistook London for Cambridge (over 60 miles away)
  • Over a third thought, Cardiff was Swansea (over 40 miles away)
  • Half confused Ipswich with Norfolk (over 50 miles away)
  • 15% mistook Edinburgh for Aberdeen (with 128 miles between them)

 This also led to drivers highlighting their lack of distance vs time estimates when it came to driving between popular city hotspots:

  • Almost a third of drivers thought going from Manchester to Birmingham would take 55 minutes or less, which would only get them half of the journey south and at best to Stoke.
  • Cardiff to Southampton is a journey that typically takes 2 and a half hours, but a fifth of people thought this would take 5 hours. In that time, drivers could get down to Dover and be on the ferry to Calais!

The research further revealed many drivers do not take into consideration which roads they are driving on and the time it takes to reach their destination, highlighting this lack of geographical knowledge and reliance on sat navs and mobile phone apps. 

Uncovering if age does have an effect on driving habits, the research revealed that one in four 18 to 24 year olds admitted to using a sat nav for every journey, from going to the shops to visiting family across the country. In comparison, just one in 10 drivers aged 45 or above said they used a sat nav on all occasions, as it makes them more confident drivers.

Neil Menzies, Director of Caravan Guard, commented on the research: “It’s truly astonishing the amount we rely on technology to take us from A to B, as just 20 years ago a map would be the only guidance when going on journeys, and now we even use sat navs to go to work or the shop, a trip we make multiple times a week.

“The lack of geographical knowledge outside of our own local areas shows that sat navs have become a huge part in directing us when on long journeys and many assume instant trust in their devices, despite so many admitting that they’ve caused an accident.

“We hope that our research will make people think carefully about relying solely on GPS technology as drivers still need to stay alert and avoid distractions so nothing goes seriously wrong when going to see family or on a staycation. We’d always recommend familiarising yourself with a route using traditional or online maps before setting off, especially when travelling somewhere new.”

Tatiana Rokou

Tatiana is the news coordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (, and Her role includes monitoring the hundreds of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skimming the most important according to our strategy.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.