Map skills lost on younger generation

Article date: 29 September 2006

  • A new direction in navigation

The trusty road map could become a thing of the past as newresearch* reveals half (50%) of young drivers don’t know howto read a map.

The majority of motorists (84%) claim to have good map readingabilities, yet findings from the RAC Direct Insurance research*reveal this to be far from the truth. Put to the test, many failedto correctly answer a number of simple map reading questions.Younger drivers aged 18- 34 years old performed particularlybadly: 

  • Almost two thirds (65%) of younger drivers (18-34) did notknow that an “A” road is red on a standard roadmap
  • Almost a third (29%) of drivers under 35 mistook the M40 forthe River Avon 
  • More than one in seven (16%) motorists under 35 did not knowwhich direction they’d be travelling in, driving fromBirmingham to Nottingham
  • Over a third (36%) of 18-34 year olds did not recognise thesymbol for a level crossing on a map.

The results suggest a growing dependence on digital technologyis to blame for drivers’ poor map reading skills. Traditionalroad maps are becoming increasingly redundant, with more than onein 10 (14%) drivers admitting to never using one. This figure risesto one in five (20%) drivers aged under 35, whilst more than aquarter (26%) of this same age group don’t even carry a roadmap in their vehicle.

Instead, half (50%) of motorists depend on online route planners toget from A to B and this figure climbs to 61% amongst thetech-savvy generation of under 35s. A love of gadgets and gizmosmeans a quarter (26%) of drivers under 35 now use satellitenavigation to plan their route.

Elaine Watts, cartographic unit manager, Nottingham Universitycommented: “It’s a shame to see advances in technologyreplacing a traditional skill. The enjoyment of map reading whilston the road can be an integral aspect of the motoring experience,and fosters a greater understanding of spatial awareness. Youngermotorists in particular, should be taught and encouraged to useroad maps, to complement the latest digitaltechnology.”

Older motorists are also embracing new technology with almost onein five 55-64 year olds (19%) installing satellite navigationsystems. Four out of 10 (41%) still rely on a road map for planningtheir journey compared to just 18% of those under 35. Using mapsmore often means drivers aged 55-64 performed best with 56% passingthe RAC Direct Insurance Map test survey**.

Adam Cracknell of RAC Direct Insurance said: “Planning ajourney thoroughly should be a priority for all motorists, bothyoung and old. Technology makes our lives easier and moreconvenient in so many ways, but it shouldn’t make uscomplacent. Route planners and satellite navigation systems can bea real benefit and using sat nav can even reduce insurancepremiums. However, map reading is a really indispensable skill andinvesting in a good map is never a bad idea.”

RAC Direct Insurance has a range of products for cars, companycars, bikes, vans and young drivers. Motor insurance should becarefully tailored to the customer so RAC Direct Insurance’s"motorquoter" facility asks a series of driver profile relatedquestions in a bid to lower premiums.


RAC Press office contact:
Sonia Clarke or ChrisLauwerys 
Lexis PR on 0207 908 6570 or 0207 908 6465

Adam Cracknell 
RAC Press Office on 01603 684916

Notes to editors:

*RAC commissioned ICM to conduct research amongst1,000 male and female drivers aged 18– 65+across the UKbetween 14 September and 18 September 2006.

**Respondents answered six questions designed to test their basicmap reading skills. The average score for motorists aged 18-34 forall six questions was then calculated

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