Do Not Leave Common Sense Behind When Trying Out Your Shiny New GPS

Like many Americans this year, I received a GPS unit as a Christmas gift. Its first real test was navigating to an unfamiliar town for New Year’s Eve, and it sent me on a circuitous, traffic-clogged route to the nearest freeway entrance after picking up a friend. “What? No!” I yelled at the device when it ordered me to make a pointless, impossible left turn onto a dead-end street.

I only ended up a half-mile away from my route at any given time, and quickly realized that global positioning satellites are no substitute for actual common sense, assuming that you have any. But some of my fellow holiday GPS recipients haven’t been so lucky.

Like a family in Oregon whose GPS promised to shave 40 minutes off their route, but instead left them stranded on a snowy local road.

In Griffin’s case, in fact, the GPS device was a Christmas gift, from his parents. He used it for the first time to plan the trip to Central Oregon.

It’s one he’d made many times before, following a route travelers have found reliable since at least the days of the Oregon Trail. But, he said, a shortcut the GPS device suggested was attractive.

“We were in such a hurry to get over there, we programmed it in the driveway and went ahead,” he said.

In hindsight, he said, he should have double checked the route against a paper map — and packed extra formula for the baby. “We would be better prepared for the unknown,” he said.

Yes, if you’re going to let your GPS send you into the unknown, it’s a good idea to be ready for unknown things to happen. When driving in winter conditions, do not take untested routes, and always prepare for emergencies.

GPS-led travel goes amiss; 3 Oregon parties rescued
[Seattle Times] (Thanks, Richard!)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.