Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Why motorists can't read road maps

The rise of the satnav has had an alarming effect on the average motorist's abilty to read a map. The Evening Standard reports:

Research shows that almost 50 per cent of Britain's drivers - an astonishing 15 million - are unable to identify simple map symbols and that about 11 million admit they "cannot read a basic road map".
Does it matter? Sometimes it does. Just ask the Shrophire Star:

The owners of a 400-year-old ferry across the River Severn in Shropshire are being inundated with baffled drivers being directed across a non-existent crossing by their sat nav systems.

Faulty instructions have flummoxed more than 100 drivers trying to reach Hampton Loade, near Bridgnorth. No-one has yet ended up in the Severn because of the blunder but some have come uncomfortably close.

Instead of a crossing over the river, puzzled motorists are met with a dead end at the water’s edge, where there is only a foot ferry.

The other striking thing about the Standard report is that only one per cent of motorists would be able to win a Cub Scout map-reading proficiency badge. I don't like to show off, but I had that badge when I was a Cub.

Talking of scouts, I never got around to writing a posting to celebrate the centenary of Baden-Powell's first camp. It's not fashionable to approve of scouting in some circles, but I like this quotation from Tony Gould's biography of the impeccably anti-imperialist novelist Colin MacInnes:

Colin always defended the scouts against leftish accusations of incipient fascism and the like. How could be not be loyal when the "prophetic book" was none other than Cousin Roddy's Kim?

He describes the ideology of the movement as "the weirdest blend of ritual, non-sectarian religiosity, nature and beast worship, and a passion for peoples (Red Indian, Australian aborigines, African tribesmen) whom Christian imperialism had tried for centuries to destroy."

And if it teaches people to read maps, so much the better.

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