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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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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.

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