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