GPS Navigation Improves Traffic Safety?

Despite some well-publicized instance where a few drivers have driven into construction zones, into buildings, and off roads because their GPS systems told them to, a new study (Dutch) from Dutch research institute TNO purports to find that the use of GPS satellite navigation systems actually improves driving and traffic safety.

Of course, one must question the sources of reports like these, and this study was commissioned by Aon, Athlon Car Lease, Delta Lloyd, and GPS maker TomTom and conducted over a six month period in the Netherlands in 2006. Nonetheless, the study claims that the use of GPS satellite navigation devices improves driving behavior when drivers are in unknown areas headed for an unknown destination. Drivers using a GPS system stop 25 percent less frequently, are stationary for 35 percent less time, and take fewer turns than drivers relying on traditional navigation tools. Furthermore, GPS-enabled drivers take 50 percent few “inappropriate actions,” like ignoring traffic signs.

The study also claims GPS systems heighten driver alertness and reduce stress. Drivers with a TomTom navigation system were found to have a 20 percent lighter workload than drivers without (although TNO doesn’t go to any effort to define “workload”). Drivers with a TomTom system also had their driving distances reduced by 16 percent, and their time traveling reduced by 18 percent.

The study also notes that drivers who do not have a satellite navigation system had 12 percent more damage claims to their vehicles.

“We have always designed our products with safety as a key priority,” said TomTom COO Alexander Ribbink in a statement. “All our tests have always proven that our products act as a genuine aid to driving. This independent research now strengthens this. TomTom owners benefit from increased awareness, a reduced workload, less stress, less time and distance traveled in getting to their destination. On top of that there are clear environmental and economic benefits. All in all, we provide drivers with the ability to keep their eyes on the road and get from A to B as safely and efficiently as possible.”

[Personally, we find in-car GPS systems so annoying that we only get stress relief, more efficient driving, and better drive times when we turn them off entirely and put a couple minutes’ thought into our routes before we set out.]