Saturday, 3 November 2007

Sat-Nav cause more problems

I seem to be stuck on the subject of traffic and driving at the moment but this entry is regarding a problem I've wanted to comment on for some time, and the front page story in today's Western Morning News has brought it to the fore.

According to the WMN story a Czech driver working for a Czech haulage company was on his way to Lee Moor to collect some TVs. His satellite navigation system (or sat-nav as they seem to be known as) directed him down a country lane between the A379 Plymouth to Kingsbridge road and the A38 Devon Expressway. This wasn't any old lorry but an articulated 40 tonne monster. Obviously the next part of the story is that the lorry got firmly wedged between the hedge banks. Fortunately for the non English speaking driver the mishap occurred close to a house where the housewife, a Croatian, was able to sufficiently understand his native tongue to communicate with him. Inexplicably it took three days before someone could pull the lorry out. Meantime the driver spent his nights in his vehicle (it had a bed) and the Croatian lady and her husband kept him fed and watered by inviting him in for meals.

These stories of HGVs getting stuck come up now and again ... and again and again and again. They just illustrate a situation that is ludicrous in that the drivers do not understand the fallibility of their sat-navs. By and large they seem to work for the ordinary car but obviously often not for bigger stuff. Isn't this the problem with this clever technology, before it came in one was reliant on a degree of common sense, an ability to read a map and a general feel of where you were. But now it's a case of "who needs common sense - we have the technology, stupid".

Some months ago a sign, the first in this country, was erected at Exton in Hampshire, telling drivers not to rely on their sat-navs after problems there. And only the other day there was the unveiling of a sign in the Vale of Glamorgan again advising that the technology should not be used. This latter one was of a pictorial design to avoid the linguistic problem that foreign drivers could encounter. OK such signage could be used in instances where there are regular problems but could hardly be erected in the hundreds of locations where lorries could come to grief.

I haven't seen the men from the ministry or the sat-nav manufacturers being very active in dealing with this issue, they need to be a darn sight more proactive. As usual you can expect the local authorities whose highway budgets are always being squeezed to do any repairs after such incidents occur. A lot of these minor roads are a few inches of blacktop on not very much and are certainly not designed for trans-continental juggernauts.

These large lorries should confine themselves to 'A' roads and 'B' roads except the very last part of the journey if the depot or whatever is off such roads. Looking at the 1:50,000 OS maps for my two counties it can be seen that you are never any great distance from 'A' and 'B' roads so there is no reason at all why big lorries can't stick to them. Drivers getting stuck in narrow lanes should be prosecuted for careless driving. Obviously I am excluding smaller lorries, the ones collecting farm milk for instance and the tankers that deliver calor gas for properties not on the mains.

Please note that I'm not decrying the use of technology, it's just a case of recognising that on occasion its usefulness is limited. Instead of us becoming techno-junkies 24/7 we should realise that commonsense still has a part to play.

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