A Third Of UK Adults Can't Read A Basic Road Map

New research out today reveals that approximately 11 million motorists* (35 per cent) cannot read a basic road map.  Over a third of motorists struggled to read a four-figure grid reference and a staggering 83 per cent failed to identify the ‘motorway’ map symbol**.

esure car insurance questioned over 1,000 UK drivers to find out how much the nation’s map reading skills have been affected by new technology***.  One in six (16 per cent) UK drivers no longer keep a map in their car, with the majority (63 per cent) admitting to only keeping out of date maps in the car.  When tested on their map reading skills, only 1 per cent would pass the Cub Scout Map Reader badge****, which is aimed at 6 to 17 year olds.  

8 per cent (which would equate to 2.5 million drivers) admit they could not live without their SAT-NAV systems and 63 per cent of those questioned (21 million motorists) admitted they would be well and truly lost without their satellite navigation (SAT-NAV) system. Despite this up to 36 billion wasted miles (260 miles per motorist) are driven by lost motorists each year – with 50 per cent of motorists claiming that their SAT-NAV system drives them mad at least once a month.

Infamous examples of SAT-NAV mishaps include a Gloucestershire coach driver who bottlenecked his load of pensioners in a narrow country lane for 4 hours and a Manchester ambulance that was transferring a patient being sent 200 miles in the wrong direction.

When it comes to traditional cartography and the battle of the sexes, men claimed to be better than women at reading maps although results showed that both sexes had fairly equal skills, with 62 per cent of women being able to correctly decipher four-figure grid references compared to 68 per cent of men. However, ladies scored higher when it came to correctly identifying map symbols.

The top 10 most confused road map symbols are as follows (1 is least understood):

1.       Mud            
2.       Motorway
3,       Bus or coach station
4.       Nature Reserve
5.       Public Convenience
6.       Railway Station
7.       Place of worship
8.       Picnic site
9.       Place of worship with spire
10.     Camp site

Scott Sinclair from Ordnance Survey, Britain’s national mapping agency, comments:

It’s time for motorists to take a refresher in map reading skills. Technology is great but the batteries won’t run out on a paper map. No serious hill walker would rely totally on a GPS device in case the power goes or the signal is lost, so it should be the same for the motorist. Many people still enjoy maps and they can really help you build up a sense of the world around you. Knowing how to read a map gives you access to much more information than a set of instructions on a screen.”

Londoners proved to be the worst at reading maps, with nearly half of motorists unable to identify four figure grid references, possibly due to readily available public transport links or perhaps as a result of congestion charging. Motorists in the South East are regarded as the most cart-logically aware being able to identify the most map symbols (66 per cent of those tested correctly matched over 5 symbols to their meaning), however only a mere 36 per cent correctly identified a nature reserve.

Motorists from Scotland are the least knowledgeable with over half (56%) unable to identify five or more symbols, closely followed by drivers from the Midlands (55% per cent).  A staggering 12% of Welsh drivers only managed to correctly identify one or none.

Colin Batabyal , Director of Underwriting and Business Development at esure, said:

It’s pretty embarrassing that the majority of Cub Scouts have better map reading skills than the majority of the adult population. This could potentially lead to dangerous scenarios where people are relying solely on technology which can break down. Better map reading means safer driving, which in turn ensures our customers can be offered as low a premium as possible.”

*Based on DVLA driver and vehicle statistics ** Motorway map symbol: *** esure used the independent online research company MyVoice who surveyed a cross section of over 1,000 of the UK's drivers, from across the country, aged from 18 years up to the age of 65 years. ****Cub Scout Map Reader Badge criteria:

6 August 2007 Staff

The information contained this motoring news article may have changed since publication. Product specifications, reviews and editorial may only apply to the UK market. You may wish to check with the manufacturer before making a purchasing decision. E.&.O.E. You may NOT reproduce our motoring news in full or part, in any format without our written permission. carpages.co.uk © 2018