“Sat navs can be annoying!” agree car insurers and mountain rescuers

February 22nd, 2012

The humble sat nav has taken something of a beating of late. First we had the Daily Mail, who blamed the navigation device for damaging cars on Thursday (they blamed them on Thursday; they’re not suggesting cars get disproportionately damaged on a Thursday. That might be the next pollster story to come out…):

Misleading satnavs have caused more than £200 million worth of damage to cars in the past 12 months, it was revealed today.

As many as 83% of satnav users have been misled by their system, a survey by Confused.com found.

Accidents caused by drivers going the wrong way have led to damage totalling £203 million in the past year, the poll also showed.

As you can see, this was a story placed by Confused.com via their PR agency Cake, in order to promote their brand new sat nav blackspot locator

Second up, we have the story from Sunday’s Telegraph which told us that ramblers are now so reliant on sat navs they can no longer read a map, and as such are terrible ramblers:

Warning over decline in map skills as ramblers rely on sat navs

Ramblers are getting lost because many no longer have basic map reading skills and rely on smart phones and sat navs, mountain rescuers have warned.

For generations, the most essential piece of kit for any rambler tackling Britain’s mountains and moors has been a map. But for modern hikers, it seems, this is no longer the case.

Experts have warned that traditional map-reading skills are now on the decline, with sales of paper charts slumping.

No mention is made about you can prove a causal link between use of a sat nav while driving and getting lost on hills… but at least we get some stats:

Ordnance Survey says sales of its paper maps have dropped by 25 per cent since 2005, to 2.1 million last year. Over the same period, mountain rescue incidents in England and Wales have increased by 52 per cent, to 1,054 in 2011.

So, half a million fewer maps are sold, and five hundred more people required mountain rescue assistance – therefore there is a causal link here, and that causal link is the use of sat navs. This appears to be the argument being made here. Which would be fine, if there was data to back that up – but at the moment, we’re given only anecdotal linkages.

And who compiled these figures?

Ged Feeney, who compiled the figures for Mountain Rescue, which represents emergency response units, said: “The majority of those who get lost do so as a result of being unable to do the basic things with a map and compass.”

Perhaps there may be a genuine argument that a rise in sat nav reliance leads to a rise in ramblers needing rescue – however, this story, despite being sold on the assumption that sat navs are to blame, says nothing about any link to sat navs. The links being made are to the fall in ordinance survey sales – but falling sales in maps doesn’t mean that ramblers aren’t buying maps any more, it just means that fewer maps are being sold. Is the fall in map sales reflected in the rambler community? We’ve no idea, the research hasn’t been done. Until it is, we can’t say anything at all about the effect having a sat nav in your car has on your ability to ramble.