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9 March, 2006

Computer says turn here

Barrow Gurney is a quiet village in Somerset, five miles outside Bristol.  It has one main street in a valley with a traditional pub, post office and a few houses, and one tiny lane leading to a church and a mediaeval convent converted to a manor house in the 16th Century. It sounds quaint.
However, this 'rural idyll' has suddenly been ruined by up to 10,000 vehicles passing through each day.

The problem is that whenever there's congestion on the A38 main road from Bristol city centre to the airport, in-car satellite navigation systems suggest an alternative route and drivers mindlessly follow, even though the road is plainly inappropriate for high volumes of through-traffic.

The BBC reported this case, but I wonder if this is becoming a common issue nationwide, as drivers increasingly rely on TomToms rather than their own navigational ability or indeed common sense.


My parents have not bought a satnav and don't intend to buy one. They'll either read a map, or use an online journey planner before setting off. Though admittedly they do not travel long distances very often.

Posted by Neil T. at March 9, 2006 02:12 PM

Hmmm - I think there's too much spin on this report - afterall if someone is relying on satnav to give them directions then they probably don't know the area - so in that case, how do they know that the road is going to be "plainly inappropriate for high volumes of through-traffic"?
Maybe the planners should not complain about the satnav directions, but the fact that the main road needs upgrading - especially if it is getting congested everyday to the tune of 10,000 vehicles.

Posted by Andy at April 9, 2006 05:59 PM

How would they know? Because it's a tiny country lane, rather than a full-on dual carriageway! Local knowledge doesn't even come into it.
The whole problem is that people don't look they mindlessly follow instructions without even considering for themselves whether the instructions make sense.

Consider this more recent example: there's a 'No Through Road' sign, a five-bar gate, the road is unsurfaced, and one side of the track is a 30 m cliff, yet people still trust their sat-nav boxes rather than basic common sense.

In this specific instance, the A38 is the main road linking Bristol city centre and the airport. Of course it's going to experience heavy traffic. That's not to say it experiences frequent traffic jams I'm pretty sure a large proportion of the 10,000 choose to take the alternative route for (apparent) convenience, or just in case the traffic is worse ahead, even if the traffic is actually flowing quite freely at that point. There's nothing in the article to suggest that 10,000 vehicles per day need to leave the main road.

Posted by NRT at April 9, 2006 11:42 PM
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