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My initial reaction was ‘hmmm…’. I’ve tested Waze several times over the years, but have always been put off by its distracting social and gaming features. The map is clogged up with icons of other drivers, you get a little fanfare noise for clocking up so many miles. Hell, other Waze users can even send you chat messages which appear on screen while you’re driving. With default settings, Waze is about as safe as taking a shower with your toaster.
What’s more, Waze is now owned by Google. They use the same mapping engine and traffic data. Surely Google Maps would simply be Waze without the bells and whistles? Turns out that’s not the case. I’ve been testing Waze for the past few weeks, comparing it to Google Maps on routes that I’m familiar with so I can verify the accuracy of its guidance. On my regular rush-hour trip to Lewes, it managed to knock five-to-ten minutes off the journey time by taking a long way round that avoided the worst of the traffic hotspots, a route that neither I nor Google Maps had previously considered. Its speed camera warnings, absent from Google Maps, are also a blessing.
The constant pings and visual noise of the social features are still a five-car pile-up waiting to happen, though. So here’s how to tweak Waze’s settings (using the Android app) to make it safer on the road.
Make Waze safer
To access Waze’s settings, click on the looking glass icon in the bottom-left corner, then click the little arrow next to your name. Then scroll right down and Settings is at the very bottom of the next page. (It’s almost like they’d really rather you didn’t find them, isn’t it?)
Scroll down to Advanced Settings and select Display and Map, then Details on Map. Here you want to switch off three distractions: Wazers (the icons of other drivers), Map Chats and Road goodies (rewards for driving so many miles in Waze), as shown.
Back out of Details on Map, and then find Show friends in map controls. Tweak that to Don’t Show.
Whilst you’re tweaking with the settings, let’s deal with Notifications that you don’t really need. Notifications is in the main Settings menu. From here, you can switch them all off, but there are alerts such as major traffic events and reminders for planned journeys that are genuinely useful. We’d kill ‘Fun announcements’, ‘Waze ads follow-ups’ and ‘Community and feedback’ without a second thought, though.
Finally, delve into the Social Networks settings. We wouldn’t connect Waze to any of our social networks – it’s a satnav, not Snapchat, for Pete’s sake. But if you already have, switch off ‘Others may send me Map Chats’ and ‘Others may send me private messages’. Unless you’re particularly keen to test how many teeth you’ll have left after smashing your head into the steering wheel…