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I take route of mapping out those long journeys

16:11 01 October 2014

Motoring editor Andy Russell like to map out a long journey first, then rely on sat-nav.

Motoring editor Andy Russell like to map out a long journey first, then rely on sat-nav.

Andy russell

Motoring editor Andy Russell is not alone in having long journeys all mapped out,

When I was a small boy I remember sitting in the back of the car when going on holiday with my parents following the route in our hardback AA road atlas.

As well as building an idea in my head of where places are and what is nearby, I also learned a host of other useful information about road signs, how to tell where a vehicle came from its number plate – remember when Suffolk identifiers included CF, GV, BJ, RT, DX and PV while north Essex was OO – and that clever table of distances between major towns and cities which involved tracing down and across with both index fingers which was not easy as you bounced along.

But with the advent of satellite-navigation systems fewer people seem to be using road atlases, especially among the younger generation. And that’s a great shame because you can learn so much poring over a road atlas.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against sat-nav systems – I wouldn’t be without mine and couldn’t manage without it – which I believe are a major contributor to road safety so you can concentrate on your driving without having to keep looking out for road signs and directions – although that’s possibly another reason why we don’t know where places are or where roads go.

So I was interested to see a survey by Be Wiser Insurance which found we seem to be divided when it comes to how we navigate during long journeys. Those using paper maps are in the majority at 48%, while 40% of drivers use sat-nav.

But just 7% of drivers have migrated to using maps on their phones while 5% of people said they still guess their way across the country when going on a long journey.

Even though I use sat-nav on the move I still like to check a road map before setting off to make sure it is giving me the best route – I have had cases where the sat-nav goes for the fastest route only to find that it shaves a couple of minutes off the journey but involves travelling 30 or 40 miles further. I’d rather take the scenic route and save some fuel.

I was driving on a launch recently with a fellow motoring journalist half my age who, while the sat-nav was dutifully telling us where to go, was looking at the old-fashioned road map. He explained that just following spoken instructions did not tell you where you actually were and what you might be missing.

Such wisdom in one so young really cheered me up.


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