Print 35 comment(s) - last by D_a_n.. on Jun 21 at 6:14 PM

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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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.

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