Over the weekend a woman in Portland, Maine drove across a police department's pedestrial plaza and down some stairs, claiming she was following directions from her dashboard GPS.  Cops later found out alcohol was a factor in that crash.  Yet, every year in San Angelo and around the country, more and more people are having accidents that can be related to their GPS.

Photo: Portland, Maine Police Department
Photo: Portland, Maine Police Department
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The National Highway Safety Administration says that GPS related accidents caused by incorrect or outdated GPS systems totaled over 200-thousand last year in the U.S.  Add to that the risk that the systems can be hacked and hackers can give the wrong GPS position in order to direct a victim to an isolated location, where your imagination can run wild on what might happen there. That is called GPS spoofing.

Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via Thinkstock
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via Thinkstock
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First, it's important to understand that not all GPS devices are equal. Passenger vehicle GPS systems often don't deliver all the information necessary to navigate safely.  For example, commercial vehicle GPS units contain commercial vehicle specific mapping data such as road restrictions, bridge and trestle clearances and up-to-date road closure information. Passenger vehicle GPS often does not contain that information.

Man hand touching to screen multimedia system with application navigation
Prykhodov
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Consumer GPS systems also often require updates to their software systems, that some users just don't take the time to do.

GPS systems can be especially confusing in urban areas.  In San Antonio, for example, GPS may say take the next right, but turns can be very close together there leading to confusion and the tendency to make quick moves across lanes.  That is dangerous.  Even here in San Angelo, the first time I set my GPS to find the  Zero One Alehouse downtown, the GPS had me going round in circles and through alleys before I finally figured out the location it was trying to lead me to.

BrianAJackson
BrianAJackson
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If you're relying upon GPS systems to find a location, and no doubt they can be very convenient, the experts have certain recommendations.

1) Make sure your GPS is securely mounted.

2) Know how to properly operate your system and become acquainted with the systems general safety features such as voice control before driving

3) Program the device BEFORE hitting the road.

4) Keep your eyes on the road and not the device.

5) Don't rely solely upon your GPS unit. 

6) Make sure you regularly update the unit's software.

GPS receiver on background map.
Eureka_89
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If you are messing with your GPS while driving, you are 23 times more likely to have an accident.  In addition, outdated navigation instructions have caused many serious injuries and even fatalities.  Some of the most common accidents caused by outdated GPS programming include:

Being instructed to turn the wrong way down a one-way street

Using GPS as a pedestrian and being told to walk onto a highway.

Being instructed to drive off a demolished bridge.

Being instructed to drive into a river or lake.

Being instructed to drive though a closed road or construction zone.

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With anything, a little common sense goes a long way. Don't blindly follow your GPS or you might end up like that driver in South Brunswick, New Jersey who was driving his wife and two children on a foggy Saturday morning and went straight through a T intersection, just like his GPS instructed.  He ended up running straight into a house.

Photo by Conor Samuel on Unsplash
Photo by Conor Samuel on Unsplash
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Safe Driving.

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