Global positioning systems might be thought of as incredible innovations, but there is a dark side to these little devices that drivers often overlook. The instruments seem harmless enough - many models only allow menu use and address input when a vehicle is stopped, and voice automation is now standard - but even the most focused drivers can be distracted by the small screen. What are the biggest dangers that come from using GPS devices behind the wheel, and what can motorists do to curb the hazards?
Preparation is best
GPS technology has improved, but it is still nowhere near perfect. Cities create detours to account for construction, new neighborhoods are built, and street names change. To reduce the chances of getting lost or running into time consuming road work, drivers should cross-check the suggested route online before blindly following their GPS. If a road trip requires a strict schedule, the extra planning will really pay off. Research only takes a minute and could save countless headaches down the road.
Too many drivers rely heavily on their navigation devices to do the work for them. GPS systems should be supplementary navigation tools, not the main source of knowledge when it comes to hitting the road. Constantly glancing over at a mounted device or at a smartphone lying on the passenger seat will put any driver at risk. If possible, drivers should get help from a friend or family member to relay relevant information when using the navigation system. This will allow for safer driving, and could make for more precise directions and quicker trips.
The dangers of distraction
The conveniences of GPS devices seem to be in constant tension with their hazards. According to a recent report from WSOC TV, a woman distracted by her GPS unit crashed into a marked police vehicle at an intersection in Charlotte, S.C., this past weekend. After looking at her device, she turned her eyes back to the road to discover that her car had gone through a red light and that it was too late to avoid the police car. Although nobody was injured in the collision, the woman was cited for failing to stop at a red light, endangering everyone in the intersection.
Given this unfortunate example, a driver should ensure that his or her vehicle has come to a complete stop before checking any kind of navigation system. WSOC TV mentioned that a 3-year-old child was a passenger in one of the vehicles at the intersection, putting into perspective the dire consequences that unsafe GPS practices can bring about.
Distracted driving has been a growing problem for highway safety as mobile devices, navigation systems, and elaborate vehicle console features have become mainstream. A recent report from Claims Journal revealed that traffic fatalities in New Hampshire have risen dramatically in the past few years as a result of distracted driving.
"People don't admit to this conduct," Lt. Matt Shapiro, commander of state police special services units told the news source. "Virtually nobody says, `I was on the phone."' Shapiro said that fatalities in the state were up 20 percent from 2012 to 2013.