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Is an in-car Navigation system a distraction?

Ok - I’m interested in adding a portable or in-dash navigation system. What systems out there provide the least amount of manual interaction/distraction, but still get you where you need to go? I have an iPhone and I think the maps application, while really helpful if your [i]planning[/] a trip, is about the absolute worst thing to use for navigation while driving.

Consumer Reports loves to evaluate these things. Their buying guide is just out, so a little book store research may be in order.

I have one and really like it.  That said, it is easy to let it become a distraction.  So it is up to you about being a distraction.  That said, most current models might actually reduce distractions.  They provide such clear verbal instructions, they reduce the need to watch for road signs and help you keep your eyes on traffic not road signs.  Some also allow for voice commands so that makes it even better.  Knowing that you will need to be in the left lane three miles away is information you can't get from road signs or maps. 

So IMO it is as good or bad as you make it.  Properly used it will increase safety and improperly used will increase risk.

Thanks. I’l pick up a copy!

Yeah, I was hoping that some of the newer models had improved on the voice directions. I had a portable one few years ago, but unless i was watching the screen, I didn’t have enough warning in many cases to take the next direction safely - that in turn led to quite a few course re-calculations. :wink:

My factory navi has the controls exclusively on the steering wheel, so it can be a MAJOR distraction if you’re trying to use it while you’re driving.

It can be a distraction. I make sure to stop and input addresses to start on a “trip”. Otherwise I don’t find the navi distracting. At times the directions can be confusing which doesn’t add to my driving skill.

There are big differences in units and brands. I have an old Garmin that I find easy to use. We also got a Sony unit that got good Amazon reviews that I don’t like nearly as well as the Garmin. The Sony unit seems to take me way out of the way to use bigger highways. When driving locally it is useless as I always have a more efficient way to get to the destination. I won’t buy another Sony. I will buy a new Garmin someday.

I decided to try the online version of consumer reports. Unfortunately it looks like they only reviewed portable navigation units. I was hoping to have an in-dash unit installed so I could cut down on the clutter. For those that are interested, the Garmin Nuvi 3760T is their most recommended model. The user reviews posted were mostly 5 star - except for a couple of 1 stars apparently due to faulty units.

I’m also very interested in the bluetooth functionality but I’m a little worried that the speakers/microphone on a portable unit won’t be as good as one that is integrated (well, the speakers, anyway).


And I hope the lady in the minivan that wandered into my lane yesterday on Rt 3A southbound in Hookett while she was playing with hers is reading this.

Well, I bought a Garmin nuvi 3790 (refurbished - much cheaper!), and I have been using it for about 2 weeks. It is definitely less distracting than trying to navigate with my iphone, except when I can’t get the voice recognition to, ya know, recognize my voice. :slight_smile: So I guess there are no groundbreaking insights here - messing with any gadget in the car is a distraction to some degree The unit is nice, in that, it speaks the street names (or comes close), but the traffic avoidance has been a little silly so far; rather than keeping me on the loop or Interstate, it just tried to get me to take the access road. After sitting through at least one light, I realized the traffic was still faster on the main road than stopping at a red light every 2 blocks.

Ok, sorry, not meant to be a gadget review. Bottom line: It’s better than using a phone for navigation (or at least my phone), but still not completely seamless. I’m looking forward to the day when voice recognition is so good that it approximates speaking with HAL 9000, ? la 2001 - without all the messy homicidal tendencies.


The trouble with traffic monitoring is that it’s still in its infancy. Most rely on the state DOT traffic reports, which they then beam to your GPS via a radio station. But DOT reports aren’t updated real-time (you don’t know about the crash until they do, and they don’t know about the crash until someone calls the cops, and the cops tell them).

A better system is the one that’s in development, where each GPS unit reports back to a central server with data about the vehicle’s speed. Then the central computer can throw up a traffic jam alert as soon as it sees a bunch of cars going slow on a freeway. Of course, the down side to that is the privacy angle - if a traffic monitoring system can track you, so can anyone else :wink:

I recall a van backing rapidly on the left shoulder apparently determined to take the exit that he missed because of a miscalculation on a GPS screen. They are very helpful when their shortcomings are allowed for. If they show your next exit in 1/4 mile but the only exit in sight is in 200 feet you might be wise to take it. That is just a 1,200 foot error which on a map is hardly measurable.

But, even if you “miss” your exit and continue onward, any decent GPS system will then tell you how to proceed from the next exit. Ergo–there is no need to endanger everyone by backing up on a highway.

I have never been able to figure out people who do extremely dangerous maneuvers on an expressway in order to leave the highway at an exit that they just passed. Apparently, they think that they will sink into some kind of black hole if they don’t get off the expressway at a specific exit. But, now with the advent of GPS, the constant correction of your directions makes it absolutely unnecessary to endanger everyone by backing up on an expressway.

When crossing Texas a missed exit could mean many miles of driving until the next exit. And I enjoy the convenience of a GPS but mute the voice and use the approach mile counter and exit heading arrow to anticipate the next move. My only problem with them is in heavily congested areas with convoluted exits. When an exit is made only to immediately find that it is necessary to cross 4 lanes of heavy traffic at 70 mph to make another exit in 1 mile I often look for a city street to exit to and pick my way across to an on ramp.

The last time I was driving distracted it was from trying to get a piece of candy cane out of the dumb wrapper. They just don’t want to let go.

Yes, navigation systems are distractions. So are pets, children, fast food, billboards, sunsets, terribly interesting birds, what happened at lunch today, and other such things. Why is it that questions of “distracted driving” seem to revolve around electronic gadgets. The whole “distracted driving” panic along with this part of the website comes from a weird obsession with mobile phones. Are they a distraction? Yes, along with pets, children…

A focus on information technology is not going to solve the basic issues underlying such things.

These devices don’t help you pay more attention to your driving that’s for sure. Myself I feel distracted driving has become sort of the “zeitgeist” of what to complain about.

I’m a paralegal and travel a lot, and thus rent a lot of cars. I’ve used in-dash, ram-mounted, dash-mounted, upper console-mounted and windshield-mounted. Personally, I much prefer windshield mounted. I’m a lefty and like putting the GPS in the left corner of the windshield or on the upper windshield right next to the mirror. The in-dash and upper-console ones typically don’t swivel to where you can see them best. The dash-mounted tend to block the driver’s view. The ram-mounted make the driver look too far away from the road and wobble. You may have different preferences and priorities, but for me, the windshield mounted ones are best.

Only if it sounds like Tom and Ray

Bonuses of portable unit; less likely to be stolen, can be used in any car you may be riding in.

Cons; more easily lost, easy to forget to take it with you when you leave the vehicle (where it then gets stolen).

I hear there’s an app (or a few) for smart-phones that provides verbal turn-by-turn instructions once the route is planned. It would require a driver to pull-over or hit a good red light to set up, but it’s more likely to come with you wherever you go and less likely to get stolen from your car when you leave. Keeps the number of gadgets, and their cost, down too! Good luck!