The days of your passenger reading a map while you drive and giving you directions on the go are now long gone. When it comes to driving unknown routes, nearly 50 % of people now use a Sat Nav device of some kind, and since November 2017 Sat Nav has even been incorporated into the UK practical driving test.

Some vehicles will already have a built in Sat Nav system and some you will need to have a freestanding system that you fit to your windscreen or place on your dashboard. Whatever system you have used carefully, a satellite navigation system can make a journey somewhere you don’t know far less stressful and more importantly a lot safer.

Sat Navs are generally pretty easy to use and programme and can quickly calculate the best route for you to reach your desired location. But they can also do a lot more including warning you of traffic congestion and offering alternative routes for your journey.

However, Sat Nav can also be a big distraction, so it’s important to make sure you know how to use your Sat Nav safely and responsibly.

These 7 tips will make sure you’re using your sat-nav safely.

1 Where should you position your Sat Nav?

There are no hard or fast rules as to where you should place your Sat Nav or Smartphone however, it’s important to keep a clear view. Placing a Sat Nav where it might obscure your view of the road ahead is not only dangerous to yourself and passengers, but could also land you in trouble with the law.

The Highway Code states that your windows and windscreens must be kept clean and free from any obstructions to your vision. To be on the safe side, it’s best to place your Sat Nav on your dashboard with an anti slip mat, or mount it as low as you can on the windscreen.

2 Always Programme your destination before you leave

If you’re in a rush it’s tempting to set off and set your Sat Nav as you go; this simply isn’t safe. Your Sat Nav or Smartphone should be programmed with the route before you set off on your journey. If you need to reset your device you should pull over and stop in a safe place to do it.

If you’re using your Smartphone as a Sat Nav when driving, make sure you invest in a holder or cradle, so that you are not holding or handling the phone when you drive. It’s also recommended to switch your phone to ‘do not disturb’ so that you cannot be distracted by incoming calls , emails or messages.

Holding a mobile phone whilst driving, whether you’re using it for making a call or using a Sat Nav is not only extremely dangerous to yourself and other road users but also illegal, and could land you with a fine for using a handheld mobile phone while driving. This currently carries a penalty of £200 and six penalty points.

The same law would apply to holding a Sat Nav device while driving, and even applies if you’re stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic or supervising a learner driver.

The only exception to this rule is if you are calling 999 or 112 in an emergency and you are unable to stop.

3 Check the Sat Nav route before setting off

Satellite navigation systems work by finding your required destination by postcode. If you’re not sure of the postcode of your destination you can also search by address or street name. It s a good idea at this stage to check the entire route your Sat Nav has set to make sure it’s the correct destination and suitable for the vehicle you are driving.

You don’t want to end up in Rainham Essex if you’re trying to get to Rainham in Kent, so make sure you are definitely heading where you want to go. If you’re not very confident or worried about the journey you can set your Sat Nav to avoid certain types of roads like motorways.

Double check your Sat Nav is secure, and check the volume is on and loud enough for you to hear above any engine noise or passenger conversations, you should be able to easily hear and see your Sat Nav.

4 Listen more than you look

Research by the Royal Holloway University has found that the safest way to use a Sat Nav is to rely on the voice commands rather than staring at the on screen directions. Looking at the screen while driving means less time watching the road ahead, this could be particularly dangerous approaching larger or more complex junctions.

Sat Navs do of course give you visual guidance as well and a quick glance at the screen (when it is safe to do so) along with the voice commands put together will help you plan ahead.

5 Remember you’re the one driving not the Sat Nav

Sat Navs when used correctly are a safe and brilliant driving aid, but are not always 100% reliable. You should always trust your eyes as well as your Sat Nav, forward plan and act on the information you see in front of you, don’t just blindly follow your Sat Navs commands.

If the Sat Nav tells you to drive down a one way street ignore it and the system will reroute you, if the road doesn’t look right, don’t take it, people have been known to drive into rivers or onto railway tracks due to Sat Nav confusion so if it looks wrong don’t follow it.

6 Keep your Sat Nav up to date

It’s important to update your Sat Nav on a regular basis. Refresh the devices mapping regularly to take into account any new roads and changed layouts. A study by “Which” found that roads change up to 15% each year. Updating your Sat Nav on a regular basis will ensure you always have the most recent mapping to get to your desired destination.

7 Keep it safe

Never leave your Sat Nav on display or stuck on the windscreen when you leave your vehicle unattended. Car thieves could target your vehicle if you leave your Sat Nav on display or if there’s any sign you have valuables in the car. Always take your device with you or lock it away in the boot.

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