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The Ten stupidest satnav mishaps

Satnav mishaps

We all love a bit of schadenfreude - that smug superiority experienced at the expense of another - but the sensation is multiplied when it involves someone else doing something very stupid. Step forward the humble satellite navigation system - keeping those us of callously laughing at another's expense in perpetuity.

Here at MotorTorque, we read stories on a weekly basis about how another lorry driver has taken his rig into a coal-mine, or a brainless taxi driver has driven his Avensis into a nuclear power station, believing it to be a pub car park.

Even better are the mishaps suffered by the very rich, who seem to have carved out an entire niche in spectacularly feckless satnav mishaps, as any casual Google image search for 'satnav', 'river' and 'mercedes' will confirm.

According to a recent survey by Direct Line, satnavs are responsible for a massive 300,000 accidents every year in the UK alone - that's one in every 50 drivers on the road.

When satnavs go wrong

The vast majority of satnav catastrophes are likely to be due to outdated map data that doesn't take into account road closures, one-way systems and diversions. But satnavs use GPS (Global Positioning Systems) technology developed by the US Department of Defence in 1970s, calculating its position on the basis of signals from space. If something interferes with the signal, the satnav struggles.

Solar winds or flares that can cause the spectacular Northern Lights displays can also be the cause of similarly impressive accidents on the ground, as the electrical fields interfere with satnav's ability to send and receive positioning data.

Indeed, a satnav black-out is predicted for 2012 due to increased solar flare activity that will render any satnavs useless for the duration of heavy flare activity, expected to last for several hours at a time.

Why we obey them - the Nuremberg defence

Every satnav mishap is inevitably followed by bemused quotes from the driver explaining that they were only obeying the satnav's instructions, regardless of how apparently insane they appear in retrospect.

While some are undoubtedly down to unfortunate circumstances - the flooded ford, the swollen river or the overgrown foliage by the side of the road - others are simply down to the credulity of the driver. Stories abound of drivers following their satnav's instructions even after clearing difficult obstacles or negotiating muddy tracks. So what's the explanation?

"Some people like to hand over control and don't want responsibility, even for something as simple as directions, according to psychology professor Cary Cooper.

"Even when information is being fed back to them, such as road signs that suggest they're on the wrong route, they won't believe it. They only admit mistake when they're being winched out of a gully."

So, the appeal to authority and willingness to cede responsibility play into the hands of the duplicitous satnav. With that in mind, it's doubly hard to have much sympathy for the feckless hordes who are simply following orders.

And so, without further ado, let's get on with the ten stupidest satnav catastrophes.


A tale of two Stamford bridges

What an unnamed daughter of Earl Spencer had in mind was a trip to Stamford Bridge to see Cheslki FC battle to another boring 1-0 home win. What she got was a day out in lesser-known Stamford Bridge - a small village in North Yorkshire.

What makes this one particularly stupid is that at least two people in the car should have been aware that travelling directly north from Northampton for 200 miles would not result in a day at the footie in West London.

Train destroys car, student's reputation

Paula Creely - a woman destined to forever find her name in Google rankings attached to an act of staggering daftness - drove her car onto a railway line, in accordance with the wishes of her satnav.

Needless to say, an accommodating train duly smashed the car to bits within minutes, while Creely stood back and watched. In fairness to the satnav in question, Creely was not directed to park her Renault Clio between gates on the level crossing and wait for a passing train to oblige.

Taxi driver take shortcut - 200 yards into river

A taxi driver from Norfolk drove 200 yards into a river under directions from his satnav, leaving him stranded in the River Nar.

The minibus driver was directed into the river in Norfolk, and put his trust into the satnav to the extent that he drove directly into the river and kept going for 200 yards, until his Volkswagen Caravel became stuck in the riverbed.

A spokeswoman for the taxi firm said: "When it told him to carry straight on, he did, even though it was taking him along the river."

German's dash for the toilet

A German motorist took his satnav literally when ordered to 'turn right now', executing an immediate 90-degree turn and ploughing straight into a building site, up a flight of stairs and into a portaloo.

The correct turn-off was still some 30 yards away when the portaloo destruction incident took place.

Czech bounces into trouble in country lane

Luckless Czech lorry driver Yuro Odehnal was stuck in his cab for three days after his satnav directed him down a narrow country lane, where he became hemmed in by two banks and an overhead pipe.

Luckily for Yuro, a friendly local family passed him three meals a day, though it's not known if he passed anything back to them over the duration of his enforced stay. Eventually bosses sent a tractor to rescue the Czech.

Cock of Gibraltar

A Syrian lorry driver made a mistake anyone could have made when he followed his satnav to Gibraltar Point in Skegness - nearly 2,000 miles from his intended destination - Gibraltar.

The goods driver's satnav took him from Turkey to the nineteenth-century holiday destination as Gibraltar is still listed as UK territory on some satnav systems.

The Splash

A diversion near the Wiltshire town of Malmesbury closed nearby B4040 and had confused satnavs directing unsuspecting drivers taking an alternative route through a four-foot high ford known as The Splash in the village of Brook End.

Tractor owners in the village earned a lucrative side income towing stricken drivers from the ford, with three drivers a day coming a cropper at the peak of the diversion.

Country house besieged by lorries

Amanda Sandland's country house is under siege from lorry drivers obeying satnavs and ploughing into her cottage - 15 times.

The narrow lane that runs past her house has so far trapped 15 unsuspecting HGVs, all of which have damaged Mrs Sandland's house.

Some local councils have been moved to put up signs advising lorry drivers to ignore their satnavs and avoid B-roads in the country, following similar incidents.

Satnav to Crackpot

Drivers following their satnav's instructions through the North Yorkshire village of the aptly-named Crackpot were stunned to find themselves driving along a narrow track at the edge of a 100-foot cliff.

The route connects Swaledale and Wensleydale, but is unsuitable for larger vehicles, necessitating a spell on a dirt track and passing through a gate. Satnav manufacturers have since removed the route.

Hamburger takes on construction site

A German driver in Hamburg maintained his faith in his satnav, even when it directed him onto a construction site marked 'closed for construction' which required traversing several more warning signs and obstacles with the use of his four-wheel drive.

Only when the elderly driver ploughed into a sandbank did he concede defeat.

• Have you suffered at the hands of your stanav? Or have you got a feckless acquaintance you'd like to publicly shame? Let us know below.