Sat nav

Our guide to sat navs

Ever tried reading a map and driving at the same time? It’s not easy. More importantly, it’s not very safe. Driving well demands full attention at all times, and that’s not possible when you’re reading a road atlas rather than reading the road. Used carefully satellite navigation systems and smartphones with a navigation app can make travelling somewhere you don’t know less stressful and – more importantly – safer. Used badly, a sat nav can be just another distraction, so make sure you know how to use sat nav carefully.

Here’s how to use sat nav responsibly

  • Keep a clear view – position your sat nav or smartphone carefully so it’s not obscuring your view of the road ahead.
  • Set the destination before you leave – if you’re in a rush it’s tempting to set off and enter the destination as you go. This simply isn’t safe and will be illegal if it means touching your phone
  • Check the route – it’s easy to head to Farnborough in Kent when you meant to go to Farnborough in Hampshire. So before driving off make sure you are definitely heading where you want to go.
  • Listen more than you look – research by Royal Holloway University has found that the safest way to use a sat nav is to rely on the verbal instructions rather than staring at the map on the screen.
  • You’re driving, not the sat nav – if it tells you to drive the wrong way up a one-way street, ignore it!
  • Keep your device up to date – refresh the device’s mapping regularly to take account of new roads and changed layouts.


 Sat nav in the driving test

Following directions from a sat nav is usually part of the independent driving section of the practical test. Most tests now have the sat nav element, but one in five don’t.

Remember, the important thing isn’t that you follow the directions perfectly, but that you continue to drive safely and don’t find the sat nav distracting.