GPS navigation for dummies

Do drivers rely too heavily on technological devices to get from point A to point B?

There was a recent article about three young women who escaped a sinking SUV after a direction from a rental car GPS unit sent them down a boat launch and into the Mercer Slough near Bellevue, Wash.

The driver apparently thought she was on a road while following her GPS unit just after midnight – but she was actually heading down the Sweyolocken boat launch. This was just a case of a lost driver and a GPS system that didn’t quite live up to standards.

In a world driven by digital communication, information is no longer shared primarily through paper and postage. Books and letters are frequently generated and transmitted through the computer, as are maps. With the rise of geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS), the use of traditional paper maps is on a certain decline.

According to a new study released by MetLife, around 66 percent of those surveyed believe drivers rely too heavily on technology while behind the wheel, and that reliance may contribute to unsafe driving.

These days it seems like students don’t know how to read a map, follow verbal directions, or remember how to get around without a GPS. Relying so heavily on electronics can sometimes be a problem. Nowadays, you can use any smart phone to access Google Maps or even route your location and destination straight from your phone. A lot of people these days also have a lack of regional knowledge due to all the highly technical electronics offered.

As I was driving to my friend’s school the other weekend the first thing I did was set the address of my destination on my GPS. Traveling for about three and a half hours in the dark I realized I was fully relying on my GPS to take me to my destination.

I thought to myself, “What if it’s leading me the wrong way? Or what happens if my GPS breaks and I don’t have service on my cell phone?”

I have never been very good with directions at all, and am usually always relying on my phone or GPS for directions. I recently spent a couple of days in the U.P. and used my iPhone GPS app to find my way around, which worked well, most of the time. However, as I was driving I lost my GPS signal right before I was supposed to turn. This then reset my GPS destination and took me over an hour out of the way. I eventually got to my destination, but with my gas tank empty I have learned to plan out my trips a little better. I often catch myself and others making plans ending in “just send me your address, I’ll put it in my GPS.”

In the case of the CSAA, studies show that paper maps are more accurate than GPS navigation systems. In an experiment done at the University of Tokyo, participants traveled on foot using either a paper map or GPS device. Those using the GPS paused frequently, traveled greater distances, and took longer to get to their destination. Paper map users were more successful.

As students we are constantly driving around to different locations for school functions or personal road trips. We need to be able to not always fully rely on these types of electronics as guides. These should be looked at as a way to make sure you are going the right way but not necessarily as turn-by-turn directions. We don’t want to be “that person,” as in dead, lost or generally looking stupid, driving with one eye on the device, another on the road, and our heads in the clouds.