According to a survey good old-fashioned road trips are not dead yet, and digital navigation tools are helping drivers find out more about what’s on the road around them. Survey results found that men and women as well as the young and the old continue to have drastically differing perceptions about maps and navigation.
Russell Research, a custom research firm, polled an online sample of nearly 1,100 adults throughout the U.S. and conducted statistical analysis about their travel tendencies. Respondents included adults ranging in age, marital status, average household size, region, education, employment status, ethnic background, and political affiliation.
Key survey findings include:
1. Road trips continue to thrive: 43 percent of younger drivers (age 19-29) hit the road for fun, while 56 percent of seasoned drivers (age 42-60) travel long distances for bonding and educational experiences.
2. Drivers are relying more on digital navigation tools: Compared with 12 months ago, eight out of ten respondents cite they are more comfortable using digital mapping resources.
3. Drivers seek out information along the way: Eighty-one percent of drivers 61 and over look for places to eat, whereas 41 percent of drivers under 29 care about the location of people they know.
4. It’s true—men are less likely to ask for directions: Almost a quarter of men surveyed rely on their own sense of direction to avoid getting lost.
Surprisingly, despite skyrocketing fuel prices, road trips continue to thrive in America. Life stage and lifestyle proves to have a considerable impact on the type of road trips that people take. Men are more likely than women to hit the road just for fun with friends while in school or college. People with children are more likely to travel long distances by car for family bonding and educational experiences.
Gender and age play a role in perceptions on road trips, too. Seventy-six percent of women prefer to experience road trips in shorter segments whereas men prefer to take on longer distances in larger intervals. In addition, older generations are most likely to see road trips as a learning experience versus their younger counterparts. Baby Boomers and those aged 61+ look for information on historical sites along their routes.
Generational gaps are largely responsible for varying perceptions when it comes to using digital resources versus traditional paper-based road maps. For instance, Baby Boomers (age 42-60) and those aged 61+ stress less when getting lost because they are used to the more traditional methods of obtaining directions, like stopping at a gas station. Generation Y (age 19-29) and Generation X (age 30-41) have a higher stress level when getting turned around and more often choose to make a frantic phone call or drive around aimlessly in hopes of getting back on course.
When seeking directions, younger drivers prefer the point-and-click method of digital maps versus the unfold-and-chart-out manual approach associated with paper maps. Tele Atlas’ survey found that traditional maps are considered a thing of the past for many young drivers and the percentage of those who use online sites for directions generally decreases with age, as does the proportion of those who use global positioning systems.
In addition, according to the survey, use of online mapping services is on the rise. More than 80 percent of those respondents who said they are comfortable using online sites for directions also indicated they are more likely to use these resources today versus 12 months ago to help with driving directions.
Unlike paper maps, digital navigation tools offer dynamic content and rich information about points along a route. In addition, digital maps are more easily updated and the information is fresher and more accurate.
When traveling, women are more interested in identifying points of interest along the way—they have more of a desire than men to know the location of resources that could make them feel secure in their journey, both in terms of their bladder and personal safety. For instance, women will pay particular attention to the locations of gas stations, restaurants, rest stops, tourist attractions, ATM machines, police stations, and hotels.
Drivers age 61 and up are most interested in learning about restaurant locations, while younger travelers are most concerned about knowing the location of “people they know” along the driving route.
The study confirms several clichés regarding differences among men and women drivers and how they approach navigation and directions. As expected, female drivers are more likely to rely on getting directions than men. Women also prefer to learn about landmarks to guide them in the right direction. Conversely, men prefer a specific exit number and do not ask for directions, noting they can depend on digital mapping sources instead as a guide.
Notably, 58 percent of women said they felt safer driving to new destinations in cars equipped with in-vehicle navigation systems, while fewer of their male counterparts considered navigation tools for safety reasons. At the same time, only 20 percent of male drivers admit to showing they are afraid when lost.
As many couples can surely attest with their own personal anecdotes, the study confirms the age-old notion that more women are willing to ask for directions at a gas station than men.
“It’s interesting to watch these trends in consumer’s perceptions play out as drivers of all ages look for resources to help enhance driving experiences along regular and unknown routes,” said Tele Atlas’ Michael Gerling, chief operating officer of North America. “Tele Atlas is committed to keeping a pulse on these opinions—the insight allows us to provide our customers with better geographic content and services to ultimately help consumers find more as they travel across the road or across the country.”