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16 May 2006 PR 06/50

Pubs help point drivers in the right direction, according to Loughborough University experts

Drivers are less likely to make mistakes at the wheel if their in-car navigation systems use landmarks – like pubs and traffic lights – to direct them to their destinations, according to research by Loughborough University.

The findings show that drivers make more errors when they are following ‘sat nav’ directions that use distance information, such as ‘turn right in 50 metres’.

The research – which was initially designed to assess the effectiveness of ‘sat nav’ for older drivers - was carried out with the help of 32 volunteer drivers. All 32 had in-car navigation systems – which used audible landmark and distance information - to find their way around a six mile route in South Leicestershire.

All found it easier to find their way using landmarks, rather than other directions.

Andrew May, of Loughborough University’s Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute, which carried out the research, said: “Results show that, for both older and younger drivers, the use of landmarks – such as pubs, petrol stations and traffic lights - reduced the time spent glancing at a visual display, reduced navigation and driving errors, and increased driver confidence.

“This suggests that, for next-generation ‘sat nav’ systems, commercial companies may want to consider incorporating landmarks to help people navigate.”

The survey also found that changes were needed to make navigation systems more accessible to older drivers. These included giving navigational information earlier and making on-screen information bigger and clearer.

The number of older drivers on the road is expected to rise steeply in the next 20 years.


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Notes to editors

  1. This research was carried out using funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
  2. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

    In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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