Do car GPS devices cause accidents?

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You may have heard these stories. Drivers are being accused of dangerous and illegal actions in order to blame their GPS units for the inevitable accident. Accounts are piling up. 

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For example, Wedmore in England has seen its fair share of truck drivers trapped between buildings by blindly following the route their GPS system had planned.

This is despite the fact that trucks are not allowed to enter the village due to their size. A man drove his car onto railroad tracks in the United States at the direction of his GPS device, “turn right, now” He was able escape the train before it came.

GPS navigation systems no longer are luxury accessories. Around 7 percent of the 220 million American cars have a GPS navigation system. 13 percent of Europe’s 200 million cars use GPS systems [source: Automotive Review]. GPS is now mainstream.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System and is comprised of several satellites. These satellites communicate with the GPS navigation device to pinpoint your position, giving or taking 164 to328 feet (50–100 meters). [source: Corvallis Microtechnology, Inc.]. 

The GPS receiver then overlays your position with digital maps and navigation information. Your device can then plan your route, locate a gas station, hotel, or Starbucks near you once it knows your exact location. It won’t drive your car. 

There are increasing numbers of reports about GPS devices directing users onto trains tracks, into lakes, or down one-way streets. According to Carey, GPS devices are responsible for approximately 300,000.

Let’s examine the reasons GPS-equipped drivers are more at risk of accidents. It could be that they rely more on their GPS device and less on maps or they ignore common sense and their own eyes.

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GPS Accidents and Dangers

Keep in mind the parental advice, “If your friends leapt off a cliff,” This is a good rule of thumb to follow when using a GPS device. If your GPS says to drive off the cliff, would it?

GPS navigation systems have become so common that a link has been made between accidents and them. Although the causes may be varied, many of them can be boiled down to human nature.

Overconfidence in the ability of a GPS device to navigate is one of the biggest human mistakes. You don’t need to plan when your GPS will show you where to go. 

GPS devices can be hampered by satellite communication problems and inaccurate maps. Some maps and navigation information don’t account for road types, even if they are updated. 

This type of error can mean that a road that appears to be the shortest between Point A and Point B may actually be a private unpaved road. Your GPS device might not recognize the road as such and add it to your route.

These factors can lead to drivers driving in unsafe terrain or onto railroad tracks. Your GPS device will tell you what to do, so you’re less likely to miss something. 

Drivers who take the GPS device’s instructions too seriously increase their accident risk. Warnings like “When possible, make an legal U-turn” can send drivers veering in front of oncoming traffic.

Accident risk is also increased by driver distraction and inattention. We’ve all seen drivers like these on the roads: distracted drivers who drink their morning coffee, talk on their phones and read the newspaper while driving. 

It’s difficult to avoid distractions while driving, but who wouldn’t want to listen to a better tune? According to a Network of Employers for Traffic Safety’s (NETS) study, the most common distractions for drivers are spilling coffee on your face and dropping something on the ground. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that driver distraction is responsible for 25-30 percent of the approximately 1.2 million crashes that occur each year in the United States [source: Stutts]. 

There are more distractions than ever when there are many devices in your car. These could include cell phones, GPS navigators, and onboard entertainment systems. 

NETS also discovered that GPS users who mute their devices increase their distraction levels — drivers spend more time looking at the screen instead of the road. [source: Smart Motorist].

There is no doubt that GPS navigation systems can help you get to your destination safely, provided you do some research before you set off. 

To avoid distractions while driving, prepare the device. This includes setting the start and end locations as well as changing settings. To minimize distraction, pull over and rely on passengers to make any necessary adjustments during the trip.

Check a map and pay close attention to road signs and surroundings. GPS is convenient, but not as good as common sense. Things that don’t seem right are most likely not.

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