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Your GPS Device Can Get You Where You Want to Go or It May Get You Into an Accident

A GPS (or Global Positioning System) is a modern marvel. First developed by the military, now virtually anyone with a smartphone can find out where they’re located and get directions to where they want to ,be.

They are a blessing to those of us who are directionally challenged or travelling in an unfamiliar place but they can also be a curse if they lead us into a dangerous situation, cause us to be distracted while driving and possibly cause an accident.

GPS systems pose several hazards, according to HowStuffWorks:

  • Drivers have too much confidence in the system. Mistakes can be made by satellite communication errors and outdated or inaccurate maps. Some mapping and navigation information doesn’t include road types, so the shortest distance may be going down the wrong way on a one-way street. Truck drivers may be instructed to use roads where trucks are prohibited or where overpasses too short for the truck to pass safely under them.
  • Drivers can find themselves on unsafe roads in places they’ve never been before and in the presence of other hazards such as artificial lakes or train tracks. The more confident you are in the system, the less likely you may be to notice something’s wrong. If directions are followed blindly (like making a U turn despite oncoming traffic), the driver can cause an accident.
  • A GPS-equipped smartphone or a GPS device can be yet another thing to distract drivers, and a distracted driver is a dangerous driver. This can happen if the driver wants to make changes or corrections to a destination and physically types in a new address while driving or turns off the voice commands and relies on looking at the ever-changing map to see where to turn next. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that distracted drivers injure 1,161 people and kill eight others each day. One of the top listed causes of distraction is use of navigation systems. A 2010 survey by Nationwide Insurance asked drivers who admitted to using smart phones while driving what they did with the device. The use of GPS systems was the most common (32%), higher than sending text messages (21%), according to Automotive Fleet.

There have been many documented cases where GPS systems contributed to vehicle accidents.

  • A 17-year-old Marlboro driver tried to make an illegal left turn from Route 33 in Manalapan after his GPS instructed him to do so, according to, resulting in a four-car collision in 2010. He was issued a motor vehicle summons for careless driving.
  • A Chicago resident in 2015 was so fixated on his GPS unit while driving in Indiana he drove off a derelict bridge, falling 37 feet. The driver managed to get out of the car but his wife was trapped inside. She was killed when the car burst into flames. He failed to heed warnings that the bridge was closed, some barricades had been moved prior to the accident and the GPS may have told the driver that it was a valid route, reports Popular Mechanics.
  • In 2012 U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York called for an investigation by the federal Department of Transportation after his office looked into the issue of truck drivers’ following GPS instructions that lead them to roads where they weren’t allowed or to overpasses too short for the trucks to pass under. He claimed that of 200 bridge accidents in New York each year, 80% were related to GPS use, according to Consumer Reports.
  • British tabloid The Mirror sponsored a survey of GPS use by drivers in 2008 and estimated that 300,000 accidents were caused by drivers too focused on satellite navigation systems. Ten percent of respondents stated following GPS instructions resulted in taking a dangerous or illegal turn.

Here are some suggestions on the safe use of GPS systems while driving:

  • Focus on driving the car, on traffic and conditions around you.
  • Program the device with your destination before you leave. If you need to manually make changes, pull over where it’s safe and make the changes on the device, not while you’re driving.
  • Before you start driving, review the route suggested by the GPS so you’ll have an idea where you’ll be going.
  • Don’t blindly follow the directions. Check to make sure it’s safe go where the system is instructing you to go.
  • If the smartphone or GPS device is in a holder, make sure it’s secure so it won’t fall while you’re driving, forcing you to find it while driving at the same time.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, schedule a free consultation with a New Jersey accident lawyer today by calling 1-855-432-2489 or use our quick connect form. We serve clients in Parsippany, Troy Hills, Morris County, Essex County, and throughout the entire state of New Jersey. Time matters, so don’t wait.

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