Now that independent driving is part of the practical driving test, gaining good navigation skills while learning to drive is important. The advantage of learning how to navigate early in your driving experience is that you will quickly become a more confident, practical driver.
It may seem obvious, but planning ahead is key to successful navigation. Before starting your journey, study the route on a map. If your drive covers a long distance, identify service stations and places you can stop for a break, integrating these points into your route. As a good starting point, there are plenty of journey planner apps available online and for mobile phones, many will generate multiple routes to choose from.
If you’re travelling to a venue, restaurant or business, check for directions and a map on the company website. If possible, it’s worth phoning ahead to your destination in advance of your journey to check that it is easy to locate and to enquire about parking.
Look out for road signs, road markings and landmarks
Road signs will usually start to provide directions before you need them, so make sure you observe all signs and road markings as you drive. When going on a long journey, be aware of towns and cities along your route as a way of mapping out the benchmarks of your journey. This way, before sign posts appear for your destination you can confidently navigate through other locations along the route.
Keep a map to hand in your car
Even if you have a satnav, keeping a map in your car is advisable, it’s always a good idea to have a physical back-up in case your satnav breaks! If you find you are lost and need to look at a map, find a safe place to pull in to re-navigate. Never compromise driving safety by checking details on a map or programming your satnav while driving.
It’s worth always keeping a map book of your local region in your car, to cover areas you are likely to drive to. When driving to a new destination, for example going on holiday, it’s worth taking a map of the places you’ll be travelling to. If nothing else, maps can be vitally useful for determining location in a breakdown situation.
A satnav system can be useful when driving, especially if you find yourself in an area you don’t recognise, but be wary of trusting the directions you are given verbatim. Always sense-check directions provided by a satnav, remember to primarily use road signs and markings for guidance and never blindly follow instructions. While satellite navigation can be effective, a satnav map in need of an update, or with programming discrepancies could lead you into a dangerous situation, so always use common sense while driving!
Lost? Don’t panic!
If you find you are lost, don’t panic. Find a safe place to pull over, such as a car park or layby and check your location on a map. In this instance, a satnav system or a mobile phone with GPS can be extremely useful for determining your location. Finding somewhere to safely stop and re-navigate as soon as you lose your bearings will enable you to resume your journey with confidence.
If you are lost near to your location, stopping to ask for directions is a good idea, people at local businesses, petrol stations and service stations are likely to be able to provide directions to nearby destinations. To help remember a set of instructions and ensure your full understanding, repeat directions back to the person advising you. If you have a complicated set of instructions to follow, it might be worth writing them down if possible. When resuming your journey, take your time, staying calm and focussed.
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