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Sat-nav drivers land in deep water again

Richard Savill / London Telegraph | April 20 2006

Motorists were furious at being stranded in up to 4ft of water yesterday after satellite navigation systems sent many away from a road closure and into a river.

Cars, vans and motorbikes have come to grief because the systems send them across a ford on the Avon, in Wiltshire.

The problem - near the village of Luckington - has occurred because a main road a mile away is closed, following the collapse of a wall, and drivers are warned to "seek alternative routes".

Most satellite systems send traffic into the village and across the ford, known locally as The Splash, in the hamlet of Brook End.

Locals are reported to have been charging as much as £25 to pull motorists out.

Lesley Bennett, 59, a parish councillor who lives next to the ford with her husband Dudley, 63, said a "ridiculously" high number of drivers had been marooned.

"Before the road closure there was one a week but now we're getting one or two a day," said Mrs Bennett, a photographer.

"When the driver's car conks out he looks stunned and when you ask him what happened he says: 'My sat-nav told me it was this way'. There are signs warning about the water but the fools just plough on regardless."

The river, which is close to the source of the Avon and home to trout, ducks and coots, usually flows at about 2 ft deep but can reach 4 ft after heavy rainfall.

"We do what we can to help," said Mrs Bennett. "I offer to dry people's clothes while they wait for help to be towed out."

A depth sign warns drivers of the danger but villagers have complained that it was put in the wrong place. Mrs Bennett said: "The sign has been put where the water is shallowest. It's ludicrous because it means you have to drive through deeper water to get through."

Kevin Assinder, 39, a printing company director from Chippenham, Wilts, was directed over the ford yesterday by the satellite system in his Land Rover Discovery.

He said: "I did wonder about going through but my car had no problems. If I was in a smaller car, I think I'd still be sitting there."

Satellite navigation systems have been blamed for sending motorists on other tricky routes.

This month drivers were sent to the edge of a 100 ft drop on an unclassified road at a place called Crackpot, North Yorkshire. In March, a lorry driver became stuck on a narrow stone bridge off the A383 near Newton Abbot, Devon.

Tomtom, a satellite navigation supplier, said it tried to ensure its information was as up-to-date as possible.

A spokesman said: "Safety is an absolute priority for Tomtom and as such we encourage our customers to report any problems they may have encountered which we report directly to our providers.

"If a driver ever feels they are being directed down an inappropriate road then a Tomtom device can quickly re-route them."

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