A Third of Britain Can’t Read a Map

One third of British motorists cannot read a basic road map, according to a survey of 1,000 adults undertaken by an insurance company.

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. … 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(16 per cent) UK drivers no longer keep a map in their car, with the majority (63 per cent) admitting to only keeping out of date maps in the car.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.

The survey’s purpose was to see whether the use of satellite navigation systems was linked to a loss of map reading skills. Despite the general thrust of the article, I don’t think that’s the case — not because the systems are owned by so few people, but because there’s no indication, at least from this article, that it had once been better and has since gotten worse. Typically, it never was what it once was.

Update, 8:03 AM: Coverage from the Daily Mail, which contains the symbols that survey respondents couldn’t identify. It’s more a question of whether Britons can read Ordnance Survey maps, isn’t it? Via All Points Blog, which wonders why an insurance company conducted this survey. Answer: because they’re worried about people crashing their cars because they were obeying their satellite navigation systems.

Update, 8/12: “I doubt actually that people could ever recognise this symbols in the first place, PND’s and in-car SatNavs have not made people less map literate, they were never map literate in this way in the first place,” says Ed Parsons, who blames a slow news month.