As the popularity, and availability of GPS navigation rises, so too do the stories of GPS navigation gone wrong.
In 2007 the Kim family became stranded on a lonely Oregon stretch after following GPS instructions to enter a road which is closed during winter months. James Kim died walking to find help after nearly 10 days stranded. In March, 2009 GPS instructions nearly led a Brittish man to his death when it encouraged him to drive a foot path which ended in a 100 foot drop. Finally, in December of 2009, a couple got lost in Oregon once again and were lucky to be found alive after they had been stranded three days in deep snow, several miles down a closed forest road.
These and other stories may make planning a sightseeing trip using GPS seem foolish, but GPS can be an important tool for planning road trips. The key is to be sure that GPS is not your only source of information when it comes to choosing which roads you will take to your expected destination.
When planning a sightseeing trip, decide before you leave home where your final destination will be, and what sites you’d like to see in between. Research the roads your navigation system is suggesting. Consider every option your system provides. Do this prior to beginning your trip, then be sure to have paper maps stowed in your car should your GPS malfunction at any time during your travels.
Here are some things to consider when planning your sightseeing trip using GPS navigation:
If your system offers you the option to accept the quickest course, or the shortest course, carefully examine both. The quickest course may take you a few extra miles, limit scenic driving, and place you on toll roads, but the shortest course may include fire-roads, unpaved trails, and other less desirable driving conditions. By examining the suggested courses prior to leaving home, you have the opportunity to cross-reference roads using the department of transportation’s web-page or 800 number in order to find out which roads are under construction, closed seasonally, require chains in the winter, or even where you may find open rest-stops.
As you embark on each leg of your sightseeing trip, re-check road conditions when possible, and pay attention to weather reports. Clear roads on Sunday morning don’t always mean good traveling conditions Sunday evening. Be flexible, and use that GPS to help you find a place to stay when traveling is not wise.
Know where you plan to rest, and make good use of that rest. Your GPS is susceptible to human error, as is your driving. A sleepy driver relying on an imperfect navigation system is a recipe for disaster.
Finally, your GPS system can be an excellent way to find local eats, entertainment, even gas stations in well established urban and metropolitan areas. These are the places you will be really glad you have that sweet voice guiding your every move.
Here are the tools you need for a successful road trip using GPS as your primary navigational system:
- GPS and active subscription service
- Paper Map
- Web access via 3G network (optional, but very worth having)
- Telephone and telephone numbers for Highway Patrol or Department of Transportation for the states you will be traveling
- Emergency Pack (includes extra food, water, a blanket for each passenger, road flares or other light source, lighter, utility knife, and emergency contact information for each passenger)
- Preplanned rest periods
- An acceptable alternate route
As always tell somebody where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and approximately when you’ll return. Give them your expected travel plan, and let them know if that plan changes significantly.
For more articles from this author, click “subscribe” above. To contact Lisa Villont with story ideas, suggestions, complaints, corrections, or compliments, write firstname.lastname@example.org