Skip to main content

Map skills lost on younger generation

Press release   •   Sep 29, 2006 00:01 BST

The trusty road map could become a thing of the past as new research* reveals half (50%) of young drivers don¿t know how to read a map.

A new direction in navigation

The trusty road map could become a thing of the past as new research* reveals half (50%) of young drivers don't know how to read a map.

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

  • Almost two thirds (65%) of younger drivers (18-34) did not know that an "A" road is red on a standard road map
  • Almost a third (29%) of drivers under 35 mistook the M40 for the River Avon
  • More than one in seven (16%) motorists under 35 did not know which direction they'd be travelling in, driving from Birmingham to Nottingham
  • Over a third (36%) of 18-34 year olds did not recognise the symbol for a level crossing on a map.

The results suggest a growing dependence on digital technology is to blame for drivers' poor map reading skills. Traditional road maps are becoming increasingly redundant, with more than one in ten (14%) drivers admitting to never using one. This figure rises to one in five (20%) drivers aged under 35, whilst more than a quarter (26%) of this same age group don't even carry a road map in their vehicle.

Instead, half (50%) of motorists depend on online route planners to get from A to B and this figure climbs to 61% amongst the tech-savvy generation of under 35s. A love of gadgets and gizmos means a quarter (26%) of drivers under 35 now use satellite navigation to plan their route.

Elaine Watts, cartographic unit manager, Nottingham University commented: "It's a shame to see advances in technology replacing a traditional skill. The enjoyment of map reading whilst on the road can be an integral aspect of the motoring experience, and fosters a greater understanding of spatial awareness. Younger motorists in particular, should be taught and encouraged to use road maps, to complement the latest digital technology."

Older motorists are also embracing new technology with almost one in five 55-64 year olds (19%) installing satellite navigation systems. Four out of ten (41%) still rely on a road map for planning their journey compared to just 18% of those under 35. Using maps more often means drivers aged 55-64 performed best with 56% passing the RAC Direct Insurance Map test survey**.

Adam Cracknell of RAC Direct Insurance said: "Planning a journey thoroughly should be a priority for all motorists, both young and old. Technology makes our lives easier and more convenient in so many ways, but it shouldn't make us complacent. Route planners and satellite navigation systems can be a real benefit and using sat nav can even reduce insurance premiums. However, map reading is a really indispensable skill and investing in a good map is never a bad idea."

RAC Direct Insurance has a range of products for cars, company cars, bikes, vans and young drivers. Motor insurance should be carefully tailored to the customer so RAC Direct Insurance's 'motorquoter' facility asks a series of driver profile related questions in a bid to lower premiums.

- Ends -

RAC Press office contact

Sonia Clarke or Chris Lauwerys at Lexis PR on 0207 908 6570 or 0207 908 6465
Adam Cracknell at RAC Press Office on 01603 684916

Notes to editors

*RAC commissioned ICM to conduct research amongst 1,000 male and female drivers aged 18- 65+across the UK between 14th September and 18th September 2006.

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

About RAC Satnav 110

  • Available exclusively from Woolworths (SRP £199.99)
  • User friendly 4" LCD wide touch screen with stylus
  • Step by step voice instructions
  • Fixed safety camera alerts - over 5000 locations included
  • Thousands of searchable points of interest with full contact details for hotels, restaurants, petrol stations and many more
  • MP3 Music Player

About RAC

With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organizations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning to drive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC Auto Windscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leading position in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part of Aviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one in seven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 14 per cent.

RAC's selection of images are available from the Media library.

Notes to Editors

For all media enquiries, please contact the RAC press team on +44 (0)1454 664 123. The line is manned by an on-call press officer outside office hours. ISDN radio studio facilities are available for interviews Monday to Friday.

About the RAC

First formed in 1897, the RAC has been looking after the needs of its members and championing the interests of drivers for more than 120 years.

Today it has more than eight million members and is one of the UK’s most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistanceinsurancebuying a used carvehicle inspections and checkslegal services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information – the RAC offers a solution for all motoring needs. The RAC is committed to making motoring easier, safer, more affordable and more enjoyable for drivers and road users.

The RAC is the motorist’s champion and campaigns to support the interests of its members and UK drivers at a national level. This includes voicing concerns about the increasing cost of motoring, particularly the price of fuel and the high level of tax levied on it, advancing levels of road safety, and supporting the needs of all drivers, from young to old.

The RAC’s annual Report on Motoring – first published in 1989 – is one of a kind and provides a clear insight into the concerns and issues facing today’s motorists.

For the very latest news on UK fuel prices, check RAC Fuel Watch. It provides a comprehensive guide to the latest UK unleaded petrol and diesel prices – both at the wholesale level and at the pump - and tracks these prices daily to help drivers check if the price they pay to fill up is a fair one.