/ Motoring, Technology

Blame the driver, not the sat nav, for car accidents

Sat nav in car

If you have a car accident as a result of poor navigation should you blame your sat nav or the driver? Research suggests that sat navs are at fault, but I think that drivers need to take more responsibility for their actions.

So, someone’s collected insurance claims data suggesting sat navs are to blame for causing accidents.

It’s probably true to say that, though a sat nav is a useful aid, it can certainly be a distraction for any driver, especially if it’s not installed sensibly. But surely it isn’t as distracting as trying to read a map while on the move!

And while we have probably all been misled by our sat navs at some stage (they are far from foolproof in my experience), they are not in charge of the car – we are!

So when I read the claim from Confused.com that ‘sat navs have caused over £200 million worth of damage to drivers on UK roads as a result of accidents caused by misleading directions,’ it made me cross!

Surely the driver makes the decisions. It is us who must consider all the road conditions and not just follow a sat nav blindly like some robot, incapable of doing anything except reacting to ‘do a u-turn where possible’ or other such inane announcements.

In my view, the sat nav is a useful additional component in a car. But the most important component – and the one that should take both credit and blame for the outcomes of every driving manoeuvre – is the person behind the wheel.

Who or what is most responsible for accidents caused by misdirection?

The driver (84%, 234 Votes)

The sat nav (16%, 45 Votes)

Total Voters: 284

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I blame the driver – every time. It is their responsibility to ensure they drive safely


couldn’t agree more! too many “accidents” caused by drivers who are concentrating on everything apart from the road ahead

Alan Tye Royal Designer says:
18 February 2012

You may not be able to drive at all if you have a Mercedes navigation system which has twice taken us to petrol stations in Sweden which do not and never have existed, then indicating a route ending up at the edge of water with no means of crossing.


Sue, Alan! Take your Merc Dealer to the Small Claims Court. This is a clear case of nor being fit for purpose (though not dangerous). Then use the compensation (because yours is an integrated satnav and you need the other functions) to buy a reliable portable satnav like TomTom or Garmin. I know you lose that big screen, but you get much cheaper updates and you can use it in pedestrian streets, too, or on your bike (but stop to consult it).


As I said on the last thread on this topic, there are many elements to staying safe while driving: point of focus; skill; physical and mental acuity (think tiredness, illness, drugs, distractions); road conditions, weather conditions and speed (affects response times per metre).

To help combat the risks as conditions vary, we need to use our whole ability, including multi-sensing. So we have, physically, foot pedals as well as hand controls, for example. Satnave are a useful adjunct both to forward planning and to navigating nearby hazards like bends (middle distance) and corners (close). They engage both visual cues from the brief looks we take on the screen, and audible cues, when we draw the voice prompts into our own sense perceptions.

Common-sense use of a satnav is a real safety boon, as well as being probably the best navigation aid – provided that it assists our other sensing instead of supplanting it. But then, common sense was always uncommon!


Sorry you have to know your own limitations and drive within them – or you are a dangerous driver to other drivers.

There are no excuses – except possibly catastrophic sudden failure of your car – and that is very rare. I’ve never used a sat nav .and never had a crash (they are not accidents) I do have a sat nav – bought it several years ago -. but decided it was unsafe to use.

Interesting I do not ever read a map on the move – First I plan the route thoroughly using maps – make a route list – If I ever need to refresh my memory I stop the car to check.


Quite right, Richard. Your first comment echoes my last. How often, though, do you stop on a no-stopping dual carriageway to recheck your directions? I suspect that you try to memorize them, and if you can’t, pull off onto a cross road to stop. That occasionally happened to me.

My satnav makes this unnecessary without distracting my concentration, though I do tend to switch it on only when I need it most because, like you, I read maps well and prefer my own planning to the satnav’s. And I do plan well as I drive: advanced training makes it difficult to do otherwise without a feeling of dread.

Most people do not have this high level of skills and find a satnav a boon. It also makes them safer because if you are poor at navigating and try to do it as you drive, this is a recipe for disaster; ie, it causes enough accidents to be significant. I suspect that the safety problem for most people is that the genuinely don’t know their own limitations, having never tested them, and are overoptimistic.

For example, at least a third of drivers will go dangerously fast in a crowded urban area, having underestimated both the hazards and their stopping distance; when the inevitable happens, it’s a big incident, not a small one. And by fast, I might mean 20mph. And three-quarters of drink-drivers think that they are safer after ‘a few’, despite the huge mass of evidence proving them to be very wrong.

Maybe what we need is to prove all this to them; the problem is that most drivers don’t see a problem and won’t take the time. This who do an advanced ‘test drive’ are usually shocked by the results, but the majority of drivers will never get even to this point. More driver education is needed, maybe by shock adverts (but believable ones) as they did in the ’70s. Without a change in public opinion, more and better driver training is politically impossible (ie, unpopular). So we get back to this: Dave Evans, you’re right!


David – I never knowingly break the law so never stop on double yellow lines it is illegal. Second in all honesty my route list is comprehensive as I have studied the map closely and the aid memoir of writing it down increases the probability of remembering it. accurately and very rarely do I ever have to stop – and I always stop safely. The only time I do is usually because there is road works or a new one way street but then there are road signs to direct me around safely which make a sat nav unnecessary .

From what I’ve learned from friends (and driving with them) is sat navs engender a totally unjustified sense of confidence and they are often inaccurate (the cause of the crashes). So far I’ve never had to use one in isolation – I always use pre-planning by map as a backup.frankly I’m not too impressed with them.

I agree that sat navs may make some feel more confident but far too many follow them slavishly.

The whole point of this conversation is that studies show sat navs cause accidents and I contend the fault is with the driver not the sat nav – simple. How can drivers be safer if the sat navs cause the crashes??

The fact there are 1000’s of incompetent drivers simply means they shouldn’t drive without thought as so many do. I suggest that more stringent testing possibly including use of sat navs and public awareness is required but frankly it will not make a difference.as too many are naturally incompetent.

Maybe there should be stiff fines or increases in insurance premiums for sat nav induced crashes..


I always used to do as you do, Richard, until I tried out a satnav – and loved it for its help in allowing me to keep my focus on my driving, while still navigating. Satnavs don’t cause accidents – people do. And satnavs are no different to any other kind of distraction if they are taking your attention from hazards – you need to refocus on your surroundings immediately.

I actually suspect that satnavs enhance safety for all users, because less competent drivers can keep road focus better when the satnav is guiding direction that when they’re trying to navigate by map, road sign or street name while still driving. In other words, a poor driver is safer navigating by satnav than in other ways.

Not everyone is as responsible as you, Richard. And I reckon that if you tried using your satnav as it was meant to be used – as an adjunct – then it would improve your own safety, too.