Death by GPS

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For GPS users who blindly follow the personal navigation devices (PND), I have five words - be warned and be prepared. Though technological advances can be truly exciting to experiment with and use, as with most things in our lives, these gadgets require a degree of good, old-fashioned common sense.

We've heard a number of reports come out of remote areas of Canada and Alaska where GPS users have been stranded as a result of following the directions received without question. Apparently, there have been times when roads were covered by snow and ice - which were not detectable by the GPS device - and users were lead into dangerous and life threatening circumstances. In still other reports, GPS users have found themselves following directions to a road that didn't exist. Perhaps it did at one time, but with today's constantly changing landscape where new roads and streets pop up overnight and others disappear just as quickly, an exact explanation alludes us. All we are left with is the reality that as reliable as these gps devices can be, they can also go horribly wrong.

For some time now, travelers in Canada have been instructed to always carry area maps in their vehicles and to double check the instructions received via their GPS systems against these maps. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Prince Edward Island in Canada are so concerned about motorists putting too much of their faith and trust in their GPS devices that they issued traveler advisories. Among other things they recommend that you take some precautionary and common sense measures before heading out, like inputting the route, and then looking at it to see if it makes sense. Also, check the route against the paper map, just in case.

The RCMP note that many GPS devices are also programmed to provide the shortest route to a destination. But shorter isn't always better, says a Canadian motorist. "When I first tried it, I was heading to Halifax. And heading to the boat, it was telling me to take this dirt road and this snow-covered road just to get to the boat," This was clearly a misdirection.

That said, there is another news report out of Nevada about a woman being rescued from after being lost for 7.5 weeks. She and her husband followed GPS directions to a dead end in the Nevada wilderness. Her husband left to get help, and hasn't been heard from since.

Remember that a GPS device should aid your own navigational abilities rather than replace them. So, don't put all of your faith and confidence in technology while on the road.

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