Mobile Tech

GPS Safety, Part 1: Texting, Part 2?

Looking through the news, it’s not hard to find a story about someone driving into a river or onto railroad on the advice of an in-car navigation system.

Last year, a Seattle bus driver blamed his GPS unit after he collided with a bridge embankment, injuring several of his passengers, according to the Seattle Times. The Mirror newspaper in Great Britain reported on a survey it had conducted estimating that navigation systems were behind some 300,000 accidents or near accidents in the UK.

However, the reputation of the GPS navigation unit is nowhere near as bad as that of the humble cellphone’s texting application, which recently made the news after Virginia Tech researchers revealed in July that texting while driving is some 23 times as dangerous as undistracted driving. Some states have begun taking measures to specifically ban texting while driving, and the danger was brought into stark relief last month in a graphic PSA commercial created in the UK.

Should GPS units share the same reputation for distraction as texting?

While any in-car device can potentially steal a driver’s attention away from the road if the driver allows it to, there’s little reason to worry about the hazards of navigation devices in particular, so long as they’re properly manufactured and installed and drivers take some common-sense precautions to avoid danger.

“There is some risk associated with them, particularly if people gaze for long periods of time at maps,” John Ulczycki, vice president of research, communications and advocacy for the


  • Its a shame no-one wants to take responsibility anymore. Too many Pass-The-Buck on to something else for their contribution to a failure. Everyone drives like they put on a pair of shoes for walking instead of thinking like an aircraft pilot. I rarely, rarely see anyone checking their vehicles prior to driving or checking their routes before actually driving them.

    Knowing whats ahead is all part of the plan. Use devices to help aid you, but use common sense to survive the drive. I personally still treat everyone on the road like a potential idiot out to get me. One idiot got me once, lesson learned.

  • Excellent post on the terrible tremd of driver distraction with GPS systems. What’s great about the current on dash and in dash gps units are the bluetooth and text to speech capabilities which eliminate the need to even look at the device while driving or entering directions. What’s distrubing is the trend that GPS will someday be mostly on cellphones and PDAs, which brings the problem full circle back. Let’s hope that the current GPS product lines capture the advantage of less or no driver distraction as new state laws are passed to reduce texting or other types of activities that lead to so many accidents and suffering.

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