Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Bonnie Tyler's New Satnav

A news article today caught my eye, an avid user of the UK's road network the headline 'Satnav Summit Maps Out Plans To Help Drivers' sounded intriguing. A meeting to put an end to drivers being sent the wrong way and new solutions to avoid lorries and such being sent down country lanes sounded like a good idea. Satnav directions are really just an aid, reliability can be a little misdirected at times. I remember one particular journey up the M1 where we were directed off at a junction and back on the same junction for no apparent reason, a bug in the road information that took three months before it was finally rectified.

Then I noticed the last paragraph '...next month we are allowing local authorities to reclassify roads'. Oh dear, not content with reducing the limits from 60 to 50 on most routes we now have a new wave of activity allowing local authorities to introduce new signage, change roads from A to B and even C or vice versa all under the guise of helping. Speed kills, I have lost friends this way and yes, speed was a factor so I understand the need for road safety, what I don't understand is taking the driving skills away from the driver.

As I see it to be a good driver you need several things, concentration, anticipation, attitude and knowledge. Concentration is simply keeping your self focused on what you are doing, driving, anticipation is reading the road both in the long, medium and short distance, attitude is trying to be calm and tolerant, a skill which is probably easier said than done and finally knowledge, the understanding of road rules. So the thought of being channelled along certain routes at certain speeds being overloaded by signs telling you what to do coupled with threats of speed cameras and 'enforcement' along the way pretty much kills the driving experience and in turn changes us from using all our good driving skills and replaces them with a set of instructions to which we need to pay more attention to than driving itself.

So take any of these skills away and you start to cause problems, the reclassification of roads could actually be a bigger issue than the headline grabbing 'Satnav Conference'. Funding will be available to 'encourage' reclassification, unfortunately no limits have been put in place so roads could be re-classed as a fund raising exercise, local authorities can quite easily reclass the same road several times as it passes through different councils, a major problem for Satnav manufacturers, imagine an A road becoming a B then back to an A, when working out the fastest route the Satnav software would look for another A road to avoid the B section effectively moving the problems somewhere else.

Expand that across the whole country with each authority taking it's own stance on the reclassification, multiplied with the fact that most authorities will not talk to the adjoining authorities then pretty soon we will have an unholy mess of variable speed limits, the funnelling of traffic to certain routes and black spots where seemingly to the Satnav no routes exist as they have been effectively downgraded enough not to appear.

Did you know that local authorities are in some cases removing the road numbers from road signs to discourage traffic in some areas? Neither did I until recently, it seems things have been moving along this direction for a number of years.

Hmm, sounds like I'm being a bit too grumpy about all this but after driving all over the UK and seeing the same problems I need only to look a few miles from my home for one of many examples. The road in question is undoubtedly a road that has received more than its fair share of casualties. In open countryside for some part it ices over easily on corners and it's long stretches and smooth surface in this short stretch between Market Warsop and Cuckney encourage speed so it was a road ripe to be looked at. Ideally the corners should have been carefully indicated and the surface treated to increase grip, speed should be lowered from 60 to 30 for the short strip through Cuckney village and it's multiple crossroads and no overtaking solid white lines added for the hidden dips along the straight stretches.
Instead, in an overzealous attempt the offending corners have been resurfaced with a surface that acts like glass, it's silky smooth and turns into a skid pan at the slightest drop of rain, still very little indicates a potentially dangerous corner, but even more overzealous is the new speed limits. The image above shows a three mile stretch starting at the bottom with the red strip.

Red is 30, green is 60, yellow is 40, purple is 50. Three miles with eight speed changes and oodles of warnings of hidden speed cameras and local civilian enforcement. You spend more time reading signs and adjusting your speed than you do driving, it's this type of thing I have seen occur over and over again throughout the UK. So unfortunately it looks like it's about to get a whole lot worse Satnav convention or not so on that bombshell I will leave you with my favourite Satnav joke.

I bought a Bonnie Tyler Satnav the other day, I wouldn't recommend it, it kept telling me to turn around and every now and then it falls apart.

No comments: