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Graham Hurdle blog: 10 December - ignore the road signs - your sat-nav will get you there!

Date: 10 December 2014

Graham Hurdle is managing director of E-Training World

The three-point turn could be dropped from the country's driving tests after the Government signaled the assessment's biggest changes in 20 years.

Learner drivers may instead be asked to use a satellite navigation system as part of a revised practical exam, and when I read this I was concerned about its implications. Drivers with SatNav systems (which is now most of us) tend to rely heavily on its instruction, resulting in less use of road signs or route planning.

Yet road signs aren't just there to give direction, they also act as a warning to drivers of potential hazards ahead and the likely behaviour of drivers around them.

I began to wonder what had triggered the Government to consider introducing SatNavs into the driving test when I recalled a statement last year by Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin calling for an end to 'pointless' road signs which he says clutter roads.

As a road safety professional I am in favour of the proposed changes to the test, and the introduction of SatNavs into it, however I am cynical about the reasons.

We are in an era of finding every possible way of reducing public spending, and road signs are an expense. By pushing drivers to use their SatNavs more, and having less reliance on road signs, could then allow the Government to justify a long-term aim of reducing the number of road signs across the UK - and maybe that's part of the bigger picture.

For a long time I have been concerned that as SatNavs begin to provide more detailed information in our vehicles, the Government may decide that less road signs are needed. After all, why put up a sign saying level crossing ahead if the computer in your car has already told you?

Yet, less road signs will lead drivers to have an even greater reliance on their SatNavs, resulting in them driving blindly on our roads - not just in terms of no route planning, but not having enough clues to the potential hazards around them.

How will you know if the vehicle in front of you is likely to make a turn unless you can see the same road sign as them? How will we anticipate that a vehicle may brake if we haven't seen the same hazard as they have?

In my mind, drivers of all vehicles need to see the same signs, so that everyone has a clue that those around them may alter their behaviour - enabling you to prepare and adapt.

So, whilst I am all for technology - lets not forget that the best computer in any vehicle is still the human brain.



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