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Lack of driver attention contributes to some crashes as well

Maps and even printouts of Google Maps directions became obsolete when affordable global positioning systems (GPS) hit the market. But users in the state of Washington are now questioning these devices after being led off bridges and into unknown territories that are nowhere near their desired destinations.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, 623 collisions occurred within the state from 2006 to 2010 due to GPS units/computers. Two of these collisions were fatal. 

Washington has had many GPS-related issues in the recent past. For instance, three women from Mexico used a GPS system to navigate their way to an Embassy Suites in Bellevue's Eastgate area. They were in town for a Costco convention, and when driving back to the Embassy Suites in their Mercedes SUV around midnight, they turned onto Interstate 90 West instead of East, and made a turn off Bellevue Way Southeast. They were then led down the Sweyolocken boat ramp into Mercer Slough. The vehicle sank, but the passengers got away safely and slightly drenched. 

Another user led astray was Paul Unwin, an avid GPS user from Seattle. When traveling to a stargazing party in a desert outside Tucson, Arizona, the GPS led him 10 to 15 miles down a strange and rough road with cacti lying across the path. 

"I thought, 'Let's punch it into the GPS and it'll take us there,'" said Unwin. "It reminds me that you can't always trust what the GPS is telling you, and if you're unsure of the area, take a little extra bit of caution."

While a GPS system can be blamed for certain mishaps, there are other occasions where the driver is too busy looking at the system instead of paying attention to the road. For instance, a charter bus driver crashed into a bridge in Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum while using a GPS in April 2008. The bus driver failed to see the flashing yellow lights and the signs indicating the low bridge down the road, and 20 students from the Garfield High School softball team were hospitalized. 

Carly Baltes of Garmin International further expressed driver responsibility, saying that GPS units cannot be blamed. She also pointed out that manuals tell drivers not to plug new coordinates in while driving, which could be a fatal distraction.

"GPS devices provide route suggestions," said Baltes. "They do not cause drivers to make driving decisions."

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Yeah, right.
By Schrag4 on 6/20/2011 12:53:53 PM , Rating: 5
Washington has had many GPS-related issues in the recent past. For instance, three women from Mexico used a GPS system to navigate their way to an Embassy Suites in Bellevue's Eastgate area. They were in town for a Costco convention, and when driving back to the Embassy Suites in their Mercedes SUV around midnight, they turned onto Interstate 90 West instead of East, and made a turn off Bellevue Way Southeast. They were then led down the Sweyolocken boat ramp into Mercer Slough. The vehicle sank, but the passengers got away safely and slightly drenched.

While there's a chance the GPS unit gave them bad directions, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the women simply failed to follow directions properly at practically every turn.

RE: Yeah, right.
By Simozene on 6/20/2011 12:59:43 PM , Rating: 5
I have seen my girlfriend's Garmin GPS make mistakes. The audio sometimes says to "turn left" when the map clearly shows a right turn, and vice versa. Either way, it is the driver's responsibility to pay attention to the road and know where you are going; the GPS itself should only be used as an aid.

RE: Yeah, right.
By MrTeal on 6/20/2011 1:05:59 PM , Rating: 5
Exactly. No one would ignore roadsigns, oncoming traffic and the giant lake right in front of them if they were trying to follow a paper map, it's incomprehensible to me why people then seem to think that GPS units are incapable of errors. Someone who ignores the signs and obvious traffic flows to turn the wrong way onto an interstate just because their GPS says so should lose their license.

RE: Yeah, right.
By cjohnson2136 on 6/20/2011 1:10:22 PM , Rating: 2
People need to stop blindly following these GPS directions (much like sheeple follow Apple, sorry it was to perfect) and use some sense. If the directions say to get on the interstate and you know you don't have to don't get on, it will simply recalculate. It is merely suggesting you go that way. It doesn't mean you have to go that way.

RE: Yeah, right.
By Samus on 6/20/2011 3:10:47 PM , Rating: 2
The real problem is simply that nobody researches their route. They literally enter a destination and follow the prompts, without ever looking at the destination itself let alone the street names they'll inevitably travel...

I remember learning to read a map in third grade. It seems like they don't teach that anymore.

RE: Yeah, right.
By cjohnson2136 on 6/20/2011 3:17:43 PM , Rating: 2
Teach how to read a map...hell they barely teach math skills anymore. They teach how to use a calculator lol. But what I do is use Google Maps and view it on my computer before I leave so I have an idea of street names. And then make sure the names are familiar when I get close to my destination.

RE: Yeah, right.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/20/11, Rating: 0
RE: Yeah, right.
By Black1969ta on 6/20/2011 11:19:35 PM , Rating: 2
And they were from the Costco Convention, traveling at Midnight, bet there was Alcohol involved even if it wore off by the time they reported the incident.
Even in the absence of alcohol I bet they were up at dawn and still out at midnight. Meaning they were exhausted and not thinking clearly.

RE: Yeah, right.
By Mitch101 on 6/20/2011 1:13:32 PM , Rating: 2
I have an area where that occurs and its because they took out the light and put in a jug handle to handle the volume of traffic. Updated maps should help that or contact them they are good to make updates where there are problems.

The one I ran into is a town about 30 mins away tried to direct me to make a left turn where the signs indicate no left turn off the road I was on. I went straight because ROAD SIGNS > GPS SUGGESTIONS. These people would have turned regardless of the signs.

RE: Yeah, right.
By Solandri on 6/20/2011 2:38:11 PM , Rating: 2
That's another problem with most GPSes - you have to pay for map updates on most models, meaning most people won't update them.

I use Google Maps navigation on my smartphone. It doesn't have many of the driving statistics frills of a standalone GPS, but the maps are always up to date. I feel the tradeoff is worth it.

RE: Yeah, right.
By DanNeely on 6/20/2011 3:06:37 PM , Rating: 2
At least on mid/upper range models (I haven't looked at cheapos) lifetime maps have become a $10ish extra at purchase time option. My luck being what it was, I bought from the last generation prior to it being offered.

RE: Yeah, right.
By DanNeely on 6/20/2011 1:54:49 PM , Rating: 2
I ran into something similar to what the guy in Tuscon encountered with my tomtom recently. A few friends and I rented a vacation house in a ski resort area for a weekend get together, and it didn't differentiate between the two lane main roads in the area and the 1.5 lane guard railless ones that wound their way along the steeper parts of the mountain side.

Not realizing that in advance made my initial arrival much more interesting than it needed to be, and having to spend a few minutes editing every route it suggested, or ignoring it giving bad directions was rather annoying the rest of the weekend.

RE: Yeah, right.
By snakeInTheGrass on 6/20/2011 9:39:18 PM , Rating: 3
But it SAID I should drive off the pier!

I can see it being wrong - roads get added, shut, whatever, but not wondering when the road signs don't match what its saying or when you're heading for a river... OK, that's just pretty f'in stupid.

RE: Yeah, right.
By cjohnson2136 on 6/20/2011 1:00:18 PM , Rating: 2
And you know what the GPS unit didn't force them to drive into the water. WTH were they thinking?

RE: Yeah, right.
By omnicronx on 6/20/2011 1:16:50 PM , Rating: 2
This was covered in the news, and GPS or not, I truly don't understand how these woman pulled this off.

They didn't merely drive off a cliff or ledge into a swamp, they drove straight off an angled boat launch. That most likely means they were travelling quite fast and made little or not attempt to stop as most launches are quick angled and allow your tires to enter several feet into the water. (especially for a truck or SUV)..

Here is a picture either before its almost submerged or while they are pulling it out..

and here the sad image of it being almost completely submerged..

Sad... sooo, sooo sad...

RE: Yeah, right.
By Solandri on 6/20/2011 2:41:29 PM , Rating: 2
My guess would be they were urbanites who've never been offroad, who figured since they were in an SUV a little water wouldn't be a problem.

RE: Yeah, right.
By adiposity on 6/20/2011 5:52:48 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, they probably thought it was just high water and would get through it. When they realized it was up to their doors it was already too late.

RE: Yeah, right.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/20/2011 3:44:07 PM , Rating: 1
I truly don't understand how these woman pulled this off.

They were from Mexico, nuff said. If you had ever been there, you would understand.

RE: Yeah, right.
By LRonaldHubbs on 6/20/2011 4:35:46 PM , Rating: 2
I agree there is a high probability of user error. And even if the device does generate wrong directions, the user is still partly to blame for trusting the direction unconditionally. Always have some knowledge of the route prior to departing, even if you are using a GPS!

With that said, I have found an interesting and reproducible bug on my Magellan 1412 unit. If you are on a highway that has staggered left and right exits, and the route says to stay on the highway, after passing about the third left exit it gets confused and starts announcing every subsequent exit as "exit to stay on route ##". The only way I have found to make it recover is to cancel and restart the route. Mostly just annoying, because if you know the road or watch the signs you will know it's wrong. Actually, I've only seen it happen on Rt84 through CT. It may actually be an issue with the map data in that area and not a systematic bug with left exits.

By JakLee on 6/20/2011 12:46:16 PM , Rating: 2
"GPS devices provide route suggestions," said Baltes. "They do not cause drivers to make driving decisions."

"Turn left here" is a direction, not a suggestion. However, I do find it scarey that people are not confident enough in their own reality to realize you should not turn onto a river/slough in a car.....

RE: wow
By cjohnson2136 on 6/20/2011 12:57:50 PM , Rating: 2
Turn left here is a direction but it is a direction to a suggested destination.

RE: wow
By Solandri on 6/20/2011 2:44:02 PM , Rating: 2
Is there even a GPS which says "Turn left here"? All the ones I've used say things like, "In 500 feet, turn left onto Main Street" followed by "Turn left onto Main Street".

RE: wow
By jbartabas on 6/20/2011 1:11:24 PM , Rating: 2
"Turn left here" is a direction, not a suggestion.

It is intended as a direction, but your free will makes it possible (and healthy) for you to treat it as a "suggestion" ;)

RE: wow
By Ticholo on 6/20/2011 1:59:27 PM , Rating: 4

Or this is Skynet's limited capacity at present killing or injuring people a couple at a time. Baby steps instead of full on nuclear holocaust. And the genius part is you're all fooled while Skynet has time to grow!

RE: wow
By GammaLaser on 6/21/2011 12:24:15 AM , Rating: 3
Reminds me of that AllState GPS commercial..."Recalculating...TURN RIGHT NOW!!!" hehe.

RE: wow
By Arsynic on 6/20/2011 2:21:14 PM , Rating: 1
Unless you take orders from a fucking machine, it's a suggestion.

RE: wow
By foolsgambit11 on 6/21/2011 3:05:29 AM , Rating: 2
The imperative mood can be used for commands or suggestions. For instance, in the following dialog, the imperative is used for what is in reality a suggestion:

A: "I'm going to try out that new Indian restaurant."
B: "Don't go there; the food's awful."

Since social status has a lot to do with whether an imperative phrase is interpreted as a command or suggestion, I assume you place yourself below machines. I agree - I for one welcome our new computer overlords.

Distracted Driver Says What?
By CrazyBernie on 6/20/2011 12:45:36 PM , Rating: 3
What else where these people doing when they should have been watching the road? Stop trying to shift the blame to not look like an idiot...

RE: Distracted Driver Says What?
By Mitch101 on 6/20/2011 12:54:17 PM , Rating: 5
Try to make the world idiot proof and the world makes a better idiot.

I put my GPS into truck mode which helps keep me off some back roads it previously took me through.

Teach it a lesson
By SiliconJon on 6/20/2011 1:56:19 PM , Rating: 2
While my GPS helps out more often than not, when it fails it does so well. Often my GPS will speak one thing, but display another - usually stating to make a left but showing a right turn, and it's the "safer" voice that always gets it wrong when this conflict occurs. And I'm on my third unit, with past units having safety & accuracy problems as well - though they do seem to keep their preferred method of insanity unique so far.

One time I accidentally threw my GPS out the window. I took it from the dash, holding it by the mount, and shook it at the open window, telling it "if you don't quit screwing with me like this I'm going to throw you out the window!". Well, it fell off the mount and went out the window anyway. $100=TOILET, but I think it learned its lesson (as did I).

By Arsynic on 6/20/2011 2:18:45 PM , Rating: 2
Government regulation. We must regulate Garmin, Tom Tom and Magellan so that only government-approved directions are used. Since we know that the government is infallible, we don't ever have to worry about wrong directions.

Due to the increased administrative costs, a GPS tax will be necessary. The cost of this fee is TBD.

dangerous territory
By Shadow Conception on 6/20/2011 7:14:40 PM , Rating: 2
Honestly, I read "Washington" and "dangerous territory" and thought the article would be about GPS manufacturers purposely leading people through southeast DC for giggles. Guess not (fortunately).

By annew on 6/20/2011 7:48:21 PM , Rating: 2
I've got a street address - two problems... my street dead ends but continues after a gap of several blocks (canyons) and the cross street also dead ends in another canyon. Sometimes folks end up on the wrong side of the larger canyon... calling for help.

GPS isn't perfect, which somehow reassures me.

It needs saying...
By snakeInTheGrass on 6/20/2011 9:42:56 PM , Rating: 2
So after driving off the pier, could you call them... wetbacks?

Oh c'mon, like you didn't think it too!

Always have a backup
By D_a_n on 6/21/2011 6:14:15 PM , Rating: 2
My GPS has led me into parking lots instead of roads. It has tried to have me go in circles. Sometimes it takes twisting country roads that are definitely not more efficient, even at the maximum posted speeds.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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