Baker Calls Summit for Sat Nav Mishaps

TomTom Sat NavIt’s been announced that the government will hold a summit to discuss the prevention of tragic accidents caused by satellite navigation systems giving the wrong directions to motorists. The summit is set for early March and will be hosted by Transport Minister Norman Baker. This is a month before local authorities are given new powers to decide how roads can look on maps, which will help them better direct traffic. It’s hoped that they can end the misery that drivers suffer after following out-of-date or wrong sat nav directions.

Sat nav devices have become more and popular in recent years, but there have been numerous accidents that have often had serious and even fatal consequences. Emergency service teams have been advised to go the wrong way, a mini-bus taxi was led into a river and a driver was left balancing on the edge of a cliff. Sat nav systems in Wales have seen Llanelli crematorium funeral services continuously disrupted by lorries that are sent the wrong way. On one September 2008 afternoon, four funerals were disrupted by HGVs due to the old directions.

Marjory Joplin, the chief of the crematorium, says that the HGVs are still causing chaos even though the layout of the road at Penprys Road changed years ago, and she’s not sure the issue can be changed. There are millions of sat nav systems that motorists are using but haven’t been updated. Many don’t want to update their devices either, due to the cost. She believes that there’s nothing the government can do now, as the devices are already out there.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says it can take months for local councils to get updates on their sat nav maps. Baker says the issue is the misfortune of local communities. Directions that aren’t up-to-date mean that traffic is misdirected. It’s essential that sat nav makers, mapping companies and highway authorities work closer to provide motorists with up-to-date and accurate information on traffic restrictions – like low bridges or narrow roads. This will help ensure drivers are given the best directions possible and avoid large lorries being guided to inappropriate roads.

The transport minister added that the summit comes a good time, as they are allowing local authorities to reclassify roads from April to ensure A roads are put where they want traffic to flow and lower the category of roads where they want to prevent traffic flow. This will avoid them having to get approval from Whitehall.

A spokesman for the Welsh government says that it’s also considering several options to correct the sat nav problem – eg. producing maps for HGVs and signing problematic routes. They have been in talks with the Highways Agency in England and the DfT about these issues and potential solutions. They will consider with interest the results of the summit, he added.




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