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With the advent of GPS devices, our map-reading and common sense skills have gone out the window. The accessibility of Global Positioning System technology has made it easier than ever to hop in your car and drive anywhere, because you can punch in an address and the device will give you turn-by-turn directions. Unfortunately, some of those turns aren’t right, resulting in some really dumb situations.
This week in Massachusetts, a woman driving while intoxicated followed her GPS’ instructions to turn left – into a cornfield. Not seeing the problem with this unconventional route, the woman continued driving until she was through the cornfield and driving across a golf course, eventually coming to a stop when her car got stuck in the course’s sand trap. Luckily, no golfers were injured, though anyone on the course probably had a good laugh at the absurdity of a car in the bunker.
Another woman who was eventually charged with driving under intoxication claimed that her GPS told her to drive the wrong way on a busy street in Darien, Illinois, in 2011. Prior to driving north in southbound lanes, the woman had cut off other drivers. She came to a complete stop on a highway on-ramp.
Apparently people trust GPS devices over their own eyesight, even when sober. Three Japanese students vacationing in Australia decided to drive to North Stradbroke Island, the key word being island, and their GPS advised them to take the most direct route possible – through Moreton Bay. MoretonBay isn’t a town, it’s an actual bay. In the students’ defense, the low tide made the sand look as if it stretched farther out into the horizon, but eventually the tourists realized they couldn’t drive any farther. After trying to get the car back to a real road, the tide began to roll back in and the car was soon in over six feet of water. The students all escaped to safety and the rental car was insured, though they had to pay $1,500 in damages.
Proper spelling is important, especially when a few letters difference means a different place. In 2009, a Swedish couple planning to drive from Venice to Capri accidentally typed in “Carpi,” which happens to be an industrial town in Northern Italy, 400 miles from the island of Capri. When the couple arrived at a tourist information center asking where the famous Blue Grotto sea cave was, they seemed oblivious that they were not on an island, even though they hadn’t taken a bridge or ferry to get there.
Outdated or inaccurate maps also pose problems. A man in Oregon City, Oregon, still has people driving into his driveway because one Garmin map places a road right through his yard – there isn’t one. The map was updated in 2009, but not everyone updates their GPS maps regularly. Without the most expensive plans, you will have to pay for each individual update. That driveway isn’t the only mistaken “road” on GPS maps: a Swiss van driver got his vehicle stuck on “a glorified goat track” on the side of a mountain in 2010 and had to be airlifted away (along with his van) by a helicopter. In 2009, a British man followed his GPS along a pedestrian footpath until coming to a stop when he hit a fence just a few inches from a cliff. The GPS directed him to continue driving off the cliff, but he declined. Authorities arrived to pull the car away from the cliff’s edge with an ATV and charge the man with careless driving.
All of these situations could have been prevented with a little bit of common sense; unfortunately, there isn’t an app for that.
Just remember to keep an eye out while driving. Once, while leaving Boston bound for Rhode Island (to the south), I turned my GPS on to help me find the way to the highway. My GPS must have decided that the highway was too busy with rush hour traffic and had me drive in circles around South Boston instead. When I found myself driving north on a side street, looking at downtown Boston’s skyline, I shut my GPS off and found my way to the highway using the old method of reading signs. While a GPS can be helpful, it’s important to have a back up like a paper map, your eyes, and common sense.